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Distressed Market: Cinda Tries a New Trail on Bad Debt Trek

One of China’s major distressed asset managers, Cinda, appears to be ready for reform. But questions – and bad debt – linger.

The news came late, but at least it came. Ministry of Finance sources recently told Caijing that Cinda Asset Management had been approved by the State Council for a pilot project aimed at reforming its business model.

It was a huge step for Cinda, which was founded in 1999 as a state-owned financial asset management company (AMC) for disposing of distressed assets on behalf of the government.

Now a decade old, Cinda plans to continue with its original mission. But the latest approval gives the firm a green light to draft a restructuring plan. Technical details would be reviewed by the State Council, China’s cabinet.

Meanwhile, authorities have started eyeing incentive policies aimed at encouraging Cinda’s evolution as a market-driven financial firm. One potential incentive would let Cinda acquire all debt-equity conversions from China’s three, other major AMCs.

Through another incentive move, it’s also likely that a new company will be created to dispose of about 200 billion yuan in NPLs on behalf of Cinda. And the possibility of inviting strategic investors to join the firm for share reform — and perhaps an IPO – has not been ruled out.

During an October 17 interview with the media including Caijing, China Construction Bank Chairman Guo Shuqing showed an interest in investing in Cinda.

“The hardest thing is evaluation,” Guo said. But on a positive note he added, “It will be a purely a business activity.”

Caijing learned that a final audit report and evaluation paper for the firm will be released around the end of the year which could give further impetus to a new direction for Cinda.

Back in 1999, the government created AMCs — including Cinda, Huarong, China Orient and Great Wall — and gave them 10 years to settle accounts on a combined 1.4 trillion yuan in non-performing assets that had been held by state-owned banks.

They initially obtained a combined 604 billion yuan from the central bank to help with refinancing bad assets, then issued 811 billion yuan in 10-year bonds at a rate of 2.25 percent to China Development Bank as well as four, state-owned banks – CCB, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China.

However, now 10 years later, plenty of work remains. The asset managers face tough decisions in dealing with a lingering mountain of bad loans.

State-owned banks that underwent share reform and restructuring in 2004 used AMCs to dispose of a second pile of bad assets totaling 942 billion yuan. Cinda received 405 billion yuan, Great Wall’s share was 263 billion yuan, Orient took over 250 billion yuan, and Huarong got the smallest chunk worth about 23 billion yuan.

Cinda turned out to be a better performer than the other state-owned asset managers for handling distressed assets. Nevertheless, the firm used almost all its earnings to pay interest on the 10-year bonds.

In September, 10-year bonds totaling 247 billion yuan that CCB issued to Cinda matured. But the bank announced a hold extension of another 10 years for the bonds, as requested by the Ministry of Finance, at a 2.25 percent annual interest rate while the ministry continued to help repay the principal and interest.

Cinda had sought to restructure for years. An obvious hurdle, however, was handling interest payments on bonds and refinancing bad debt assets acquired from state-owned banks. AMCs paid 31.5 billion yuan a year in interest on the bonds, leaving little to supplement their capital base.

Caijing has learned that the finance ministry may grant some preferential policies to Cinda. One would involve relevant debt-to-equity conversion assets from the other three AMCs, which would be allocated to Cinda. These would be comprised of NPLs from state banks and distressed assets from SOEs.

Cinda would have to employ capital market strategies to increase the value of these debt-to-equity assets. That would pave the way for Cinda’s emergence as a main platform for settling these types of assets.

Yet many issues are still unclear. At what price would Cinda acquire these debt-to-equity assets – at a price based on book value or market value? And how might the firm arrange personnel for working with SOEs on these assets? Unless the scheme is carefully thought out, Cinda could end up with no benefits.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether the other AMCs will survive separately or combine into a single entity. That decision could come from the State Council, which so far has not indicated any firm direction for transforming AMCs.

One plan being discussed by all parties is that quality assets may be injected into a new company, which in turn could seek to launch an IPO. The 200 billion yuan in non-performing assets would remain the parent, Cinda, while profits generated by the newly listed company could hopefully absorb Cinda’s financial burden gradually.

Meanwhile, AMCs have been busy obtaining a variety of licenses allowing them to offer financial services including securities, financial leasing and trusts. However, only a fraction of these businesses would be actual extensions of distressed asset settlements, the firms’ main business.
Ho Jianhang, vice president of Cinda, told Caijing that the firm “will be consistent with handling non-performing assets settlements and financial firm liquidations. This is Cinda’s core competitiveness.”

China’s non-performing asset market has long been embedded in institutional barriers. When they were established, AMCs were given multiple missions. But these multi-dimensional goals resulted in conflicts that put AMC operations in tough situations.

For example, the task of settling the bad debts of state-owned enterprises and non-performing assets held by state-owned banks is extremely difficult in the context of China’s lack of a social security system and legal shortcomings. AMCs trying to do their job can hardly follow market strategies, as they were told.

In April 2008, the Supreme People’s Court released a new regulation in the form of “conference notes” regarding the transfer of non-performing debt from financial institutions. SOEs and local governments were granted priority in acquiring these NPLs.

The court’s decision may lead to replacing AMCs with SOEs for settling distressed assets. And this means Cinda still faces immense uncertainty while striving for transformation into a market-driven asset manager.

Source: Caijing 06.11.2009 by Zhang  Yuzhe and intern reporter Jiang Zhinan contributed to this article

Filed under: Asia, China, News, Risk Management, Services, , , , , , , , ,

Rapid loan growth puts Chinese banks at Risk

Aggressive loan growth could significantly stretch the banks’ newly developed risk management systems, and the quality of new loans is expected to be inferior to the quality of those written a year ago, S&P analysts say.

Loan growth among Chinese banks hit more than Rmb7.76 trillion ($1.13 trillion) in the first half of 2009, a record high. As a result, asset quality is likely to slip further in 2009, but should remain highly manageable. It could deteriorate sharply in the next two to three years, however, if the economic slowdown is protracted in China.

Chinese banks seem to be lending so aggressively despite the economic slowdown for three key reasons.

First, the strong growth suggests that the banks’ corporate governance is still relatively weak and that the government continues to exert strong influence over banking practices as a dominant shareholder.

Second, the banks appear willing to extend additional funding to borrowers facing cash-flow difficulties on the premise that such difficulties are short-term in nature and should correct themselves when China’s growth recovers.

And third, they may be looking to compensate for the negative effects on earnings from the squeeze in net interest margins.

We expect the quality of new loans to be on average inferior to the banks’ loan book a year ago. That’s because the banks are either expanding into an enlarged but inferior client base or making incremental loans to existing clients with deteriorated financial metrics. Some new borrowers had no or limited access to bank credit in the past because they didn’t meet previous underwriting standards. But banks are likely to have eased their underwriting standards for projects related to the government’s stimulus package, as the government relaxed the capital leverage requirement for many types of projects. Loan quality should, however, be adequate for infrastructure projects that the central government or affluent provincial governments have backed; but these loans perhaps represent only a fraction of total new lending.

While further slippage in bad loans in 2009 and 2010 is likely in our view, it should be at a manageable pace. This is due to the very supportive liquidity environment for corporations as a result of strong loan growth, the limited exposure of major banks to severely hit small businesses in the export sector, and signs of economic recovery, particularly at home. A jump in the non-performing loan ratio is still very likely, as the dilutive effect gradually wanes and banks eventually stop renewing loans.

Barring a protracted slowdown in the Chinese economy, we anticipate the system will on average be able absorb incremental credit costs, given still healthy official interest spreads and banks’ improving capacity to generate fee-based income. For banks that are aggressively increasing their exposure in concentrated segments or regions, we expect potential credit losses to significantly weigh down their already below-average earnings profile. This is likely to lead to further divergence in credit profiles across the sector.

The aggressive loan growth in the first six months of this year could significantly stretch Chinese banks’ newly developed risk management systems and undermine their underdeveloped risk culture. Inflationary pressure may be the single-largest macroeconomic risk that the banks face. Historically in China, inflation often followed when loan growth ran above 20% (it was about 30% year-over-year at the end of June 2009). We’ll have to wait to see if this time will be an exception as the global economic slowdown continues to weigh on overall pricing levels. If the inflation pressure becomes so acute that the government resorts to a policy u-turn and increases lending restrictions, the heightened policy risks could exacerbate the difficulties for borrowers and banks.

The government’s role and commitment to reforms

The government remains highly influential with regard to lending policy at the banks, in our view. It has encouraged banks to make loans to prevent the economy from making a hard landing. But some government agencies, particularly the China Banking Regulatory Commission, have continually warned against excessive lending. Recently, the government seems to be fine-tuning its policy to favour a greater check on bank loan growth. The central government appears to have a delicate balancing act. It’s trying to use bank credit as a lever to maintain economic growth while preserving the banking system’s fundamental strengths. This reflects an inherent conflict between the government’s different roles as the country’s policymaker, banking regulator and major shareholder.

There are still strong incentives for the government to press ahead with banking reforms. The aggressive response to the government’s call for greater lending indicates that the banks do not yet have a sound risk culture and effective corporate governance in place. Given the experience in some markets, Chinese policymakers are likely to take a cautious approach to deregulating relatively risky activities and products. They’re also likely to slow down some reforms, such as those regarding compensation schemes. Some recent initiatives, such as those related to the development of the debt market and renminbi convertibility, indicate the government’s intention to proceed with market-oriented banking reforms.

Ratings impact on Chinese banks

We believe the major rated banks have sufficient financial strength to weather the economic slowdown. Although we see growing pressure from credit risks, policy risks and other risks for the banking sector, these are still within our expectation. We have long factored the significant volatility in Chinese banks’ financial metrics into the ratings on banks. If we are convinced that any bank has been performing better than we originally expected due to its own structural strengths, we would acknowledge these strengths against the context of a less-supportive operating environment.

Ratings On Chinese Banks
Banks Issuer Credit Rating
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. A-/Positive/A-2
China Construction Bank Corp. A-/Stable/A-2
Bank of China Ltd. A-/Stable/A-2
Bank of Communications Co. Ltd. BBB+/Stable/
China Merchants Bank Co. Ltd. BBB-/Stable/A-3
CITIC Group BBB-/Watch Pos/A-3
Agricultural Development Bank of China A+/Stable/A-1+
China Development Bank A+/Stable/A-1+
Export-Import Bank of China A+/Stable/A-1+
Note: Ratings as of July 20, 2009.

The authors of this article, Qiang Liao and Ryan Tsang, are senior analysts in the financial institutions ratings team at Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services.

Source:FinanceAsia.com, 23.07.2009

Filed under: Asia, Banking, China, News, Risk Management, Services, , , , , , , , , , , ,

CCB International Securities Limited is the first Chinese broker to use Fidessa’s institutional trading platform

Hong Kong, 12 February 2009 – Fidessa group plc (LSE:FDSA), the world’s leading provider of trading systems, market data and global connectivity, today announced its state-of-the-art Asian trading platform is being used by CCB International Securities Limited (CCBIS), the Hong Kong-based securities trading subsidiary of the second largest bank in the world, China Construction Bank.

CCBIS has started using Fidessa’s advanced institutional trading platform in response to growing demand for international solutions from institutional investors.

Fidessa’s Asian trading platform is a fully managed solution embracing client FIX connectivity, front office trading, middle office functionality and low latency exchange connectivity.

As part of its new solution, CCBIS also joined Fidessa’s global connectivity network, which provides trading links between more than 310 brokers and 1,800 buy-sides around the world.

Stuart Gates, CCBIS Head of Sales Trading, comments: “CCBIS is the only Chinese brokerage house using the state of the art globally recognized Fidessa trading platform.  The Fidessa platform puts CCBIS trading capability on par with the leading global bulge bracket firms.”

Nevin Price, Fidessa’s Regional Manager, Asia, said: “We are delighted to welcome CCBIS to the Fidessa community as our ninth fully hosted Asian trading platform client. Our proven solution and global buy-side connectivity network will enable CCBIS to compete as they continue to expand on the international stage.”

CCBIS has started using Fidessa’s order execution (trading direct as a member on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange), order and confirmation management and back office support, all of which was delivered along with full user training within 12 weeks from contract signature as part of the hosted trading platform package.

“Asia continues to present growth opportunities for Fidessa, with local players increasingly seeking to upgrade their platforms as the demands of electronic trading in Asia continue to evolve on the international stage. Fidessa’s continued investment in the region, its international reach and market leading solutions all assist in providing our clients with the stable and solid foundation upon which they confidently expand their business services” Price adds.

Source: Fidessa,12.02.2009

Filed under: FIX Connectivity, News, Trading Technology, , , , , , , , , , ,