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China: BlackRock – Can China´s Saver save the world?

  • China has experienced rapid credit-led growth in recent years. This growth has been an important contributor to global economic recovery.
  •  Many commentators anticipate that the rapid nature of Chinese credit growth, allied to a capital allocation process led by political direction and undertaken at highly subsidized rates of interest, will inevitably end in a credit bust.
  •  Further, these critics point to the opaque nature of China’s banking system, rapidly growing off-balance-sheet exposures and an overblown real estate sector as evidence of a fragile Sino financial system overdue for a crisis that will, in turn, cripple world growth and extended financial systems elsewhere.
  •  While we are sympathetic to much of the logic behind these fears, we believe that these concerns float on some flimsy analysis. As one example, we cite the mismatch between the oft-cited story of 65 million empty apartments nationwide in China and the inconvenient truth that market estimates indicate that only 60 million apartments have been completed in the last decade.
  •  More importantly, we believe that the “panda bears” overlook the fact that much of the expansion in China’s financial balance sheet has been quasi-fiscal lending and that such lending is backed and guaranteed by a system that is experiencing rapid growth in income and starting from a low level of overall debt.
  • Domestic savings rates are high — indeed, excessive at over 50% of GDP. While external capital has funded much of the rise in banking system liabilities over the last 12 months, China also runs a current account surplus, is largely domestically funded and lacks many of the vulnerabilities that undid Western credit systems in 2007–08.
  •  We agree that bad debt levels in China will rise — in fact, in a worst-case scenario, there could be as much as 7 trillion RMB of bad loans in the system at present, according to our estimates. But bank balance sheets are strong, profit growth is subsidized by fixed lending and deposit rates, and economic growth itself should be strong enough to absorb most reasonable estimates of losses without serious challenges to financial system stability.
  •  Bank deposits are the main source of domestic savings. We are confident that Beijing will seek to avoid social discontent arising from any threat to the security of deposits with vigor and resources that would make Western bailouts appear puny by comparison. Our concern is that savings growth rates will slow over the next few years and that deposit growth will be much more pedestrian than over the last decade. The recent consolidation of data on funding growth under the banner of Total Social Financing (TSF) presents a clearer picture of the efficiency of deposit mobilization in funding growth. Even allowing for shortcomings in methodology, the incremental growth per unit of financing — Financial Incremental Capital Output Ratio, or FICOR, as we term it — has deteriorated over the last decade.
  •  As a consequence of slower savings rates and reduced FICOR, we expect a slowdown in trend growth over the next few years to 7-8% rather than the 8-10% level of recent times. State-led capital allocation and rate fixing was a feature of both Korea and Japan in the past. In both cases, financial crisis arising from this policy mix was triggered by financial reform. We believe the same holds for China, but will take a number of years to unfold.

Read full report Can China´s Savers save the world

Source: BlackRock / Carral Sierra, 12.07.2011

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Fears of China property bubble

A large bubble is forming in China’s property market as a result of Beijing’s credit-driven stimulus programme, one of the country’s most prominent real estate developers warned.

Zhang Xin, chief executive of Soho China, one of the country’s most successful privately owned property developers, told the Financial Times the asset bubble was leading to rampant wasteful investment in the sector, undermining the country’s long-term growth prospects.

“Real estate prices should only go up because people want to actually use the space, but at the moment we can see more and more empty buildings across the whole country and in every real estate segment,” Ms Zhang said. “The rising prices are a direct result of so much money coming from the banks and the Chinese banks should be very worried.”

Ms Zhang’s assessment was echoed by Fan Gang, a member of the central bank’s monetary policy committee, who warned on Wednesday that real estate in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen was expensive and there was a growing risk of asset price bubbles.

Urban property prices in 70 big and medium-sized Chinese cities rose 3.9 per cent in October from a year earlier, accelerating from September’s 2.8 per cent rise, according to government figures.

Price rises in top-tier markets such as Beijing and Shanghai have been much faster. Analysts say the rebound has largely been driven by an unprecedented government-led expansion of bank lending. It is also being driven by government policies, including tax breaks, low interest rates and smaller down-payment requirements.

Investment in real estate development, a key driver of economic growth, rose 18.9 per cent in the first 10 months of the year on a year earlier, a marked acceleration from 17.7 per cent growth in January-September.

Ms Zhang said the current speculation should be a serious warning for the industry and the general economy.

“In Manhattan, they have vacancy rates of 10-15 per cent and they feel like the sky is falling, but in Pudong [the central business district in Shanghai] vacancy rates are as high as 50 per cent and they are still building new skyscrapers,” she said.

“If you look at GDP growth, then China looks like a new engine driving the global economy, but if you look at how growth is being created here by so much wasteful investment you wouldn’t be so optimistic.”

Source: FT, 18.11.2009 Jamil Anderlini in Beijing

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

Brazil: Petrobras and VisaNet under investigation

Petrobras Probe Starts as Gabrielli Faces ‘Crisis’

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) — Petroleo Brasileiro SA, struggling to meet output targets and finance a $174 billion spending plan, faces a new challenge today as Brazil’s Senate probes claims it evaded taxes and funneled cash to government allies.

The investigation, prompted by opponents of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, focuses on allegations Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras evaded 4.4 billion reais ($2.4 billion) of taxes, overpaid for goods and may have favored the president’s supporters when it made charitable donations. Chief Executive Officer Jose Sergio Gabrielli denies the claims.  Read full article by Bloomberg here

VisaNet Faces Antitrust Probe by Brazilian Justice

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) — Cia. Brasileira de Meios de Pagamento, the credit-card company known as VisaNet, is being investigated for possible anti-competitive practices by the Brazilian Justice Ministry.

The probe also involves Visa do Brasil Empreendimentos Ltda. and Visa International Service Association, the ministry said in an e-mailed statement today. The ministry, through its Economic Law Department, or SDE in the Brazilian acronym, will assess the exclusive right of VisaNet to accredit businesses to accept cards carrying the Visa logo.

This “practice” is against consumer interests and “substantially” reduces competition in the industry, the ministry said in the statement. Read full article by Bloomberg here

Source: Bloomberg, 06.08.2009

Filed under: Brazil, Latin America, News, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , ,

Mexico Central Bank prohibit some Lender/Credit/Banking Fees

July 21 (Bloomberg) — Mexico’s central bank said it will prohibit commercial banks from applying some fees in a bid to make charges more transparent and bolster competition.

Starting Aug. 21, banks won’t be able to charge fees for depositing checks that are returned, for exceeding debit card limits or for canceling deposit accounts, credit cards, debit cards or online banking services, the central bank said today in an e-mailed statement.

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The measures may force Mexican banks to issue more loans to compensate for revenue they currently get from fees, which may open up credit channels that seized up amid the global financial crisis, said Gabriel Casillas at UBS AG in Mexico City. Fees and commissions accounted for 20 percent of the Mexican banking industry’s operating revenue in 2008, Standard & Poor’s says.

“This is an important blow to one of the biggest sources of revenue for Mexican banks,” said Casillas, who is chief economist for Mexico and Chile. “This should give them an incentive to increase credit and obtain revenue from there.”

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, which controls Mexico’s largest lender BBVA Bancomer SA, fell 1.4 percent to 9.675 euros at 12:15 p.m. New York time from 9.81 euros at 10 a.m., when the measures were announced.

Banks will also be unable to charge customers for opening or managing accounts that were opened in order to receive a loan, the bank said.

Antitrust Chief

Mexican antitrust chief Eduardo Perez Motta said in a July 17 interview that authorities needed to make it easier for customers to switch banks so they could more easily shop for low-cost services, which would in turn boost competition.

“When you tell your bank you want to leave, they make your life difficult,” Perez Motta said.

Still, Angelica Bala, an S&P credit and banking analyst in Mexico City, said increased regulations won’t improve competition or transparency.

“The central bank is doing this because there has been a big political push against banks charging so much for fees and commissions,” Bala said in a telephone interview. “But putting a cap on fees and commissions is not a good thing. It has to be driven by competition.”

Source: Bloomberg, 21.07.2009 by : Jens Erik Gould in Mexico City at jgould9@bloomberg.net.

Filed under: Banking, Latin America, Mexico, News, Services, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brazil’s Antitrust Chief says ‘Irrational’ Rate cuts may hurt Brazilian banks

July 21 (Bloomberg) — Brazilian antitrust agency chief Arthur Badin said a move by state-owned banks to cut interest rates in a bid to force others to match lower borrowing costs threatens to hurt the banking industry.

“Public banks fulfill an important role in helping the economy recover,” Badin said in an interview in Brasilia. “It’s also important that, under the pretext of increasing competition, you don’t achieve the opposite in the long term, with irrational pricing of interest rates when there exists the possibility for effective competition.”

Brazilian officials, including President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, have urged banks to increase lending and cut borrowing costs after the credit crunch last year. Banco do Brasil SA, the nation’s largest federally controlled bank, Caixa Economica Federal and state development bank BNDES have all slashed borrowing costs over the past year.

“Decisions by public banks to lower rates were mainly political and don’t solve structural problems, such as default rates and future rate expectations,” Andre Perfeito, an economist at brokerage Gradual CCTVM Ltda, said in a telephone interview from Sao Paulo. “It may produce results in the short term, but in the long term it will cost more and won’t be very effective.”

Aldemir Bendine, who was made Banco do Brasil’s president in April, on May 25 announced he expanded credit to individuals by 13 billion reais ($6.8 billion), reduced rates on consumer loans and mortgages and extended the maturity of car loans in a bid to revive consumer spending. The boost to personal loans benefited 10 million clients, about a third of the bank’s total.

Brazil also cut its Long Term Interest Rate, used by state development bank BNDES, to a record 6 percent last month.

The share of outstanding credit from public banks rose to 37.8 percent in June from 34.2 percent in September last year, according to central bank figures.

Source: Bloomberg, 21.07.2009 by Iuri Dantas in Brasilia at idantas@bloomberg.net

Filed under: Banking, Brazil, Latin America, News, Risk Management, Services, , , , , , , , ,

Is Mexico’s New Banking Bill a sign of worse things to come in International Banking Regulations?

A proposal to regulate fees charged by banks operating in Mexico won’t put a big dent in Bank of Nova Scotia’s (BNS) bottom line, but it could be a sign of worse things to come, as banking rules around the world begin to tighten in the wake of the financial crisis.

Brad Smith, Blackmont Capital analyst said:

As of the year-end 2008, Scotia’s Mexican operations were responsible for 9% of total earnings and while this legislation could impact on Scotia’s total operations to be marginal at this time.

The greater concern, in our view, is that this is merely an initial step in increased international regulation of the financial industry, thereby putting increased strain on future profits.

The new banking bill passed by the Mexican Senate, but still required to pass through the lower house, proposes ceilings on credit card and loan interest rates and also seeks to regulate deposit rates and eliminate certain banking fees.

Mr. Smith continues to rate Scotiabank shares a “hold” and left his C$36 price target unchanged.

Source: SeekingAlpha, 23.04.2009

Filed under: Banking, Latin America, Mexico, News, Risk Management, Services, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mexican Senate to limit Excessive Credit Card charges by foreign banks, observed by U.S. Senate

[16.04.2009] Mexico’s Senate banking committe approved changes to the financial services law. The Central Bank will be allowed to set limits on the rates that commercial banks can charge on loans.

Banco de Mexico will not set of specific limits to rates; instead, the central bank will set references as to how much banks should be charging for the loans and also have the ability to highlight to the public which banks are charging more than others. “Banco de Mexico will ensure that institutions give loans or credit in accessible and reasonable conditions, and it will take corrective measures so that operations are offered under those terms,” the bill says.

The initiative will now move to the floor of the Senate. The bill doesn’t specify a maximum interest rate. Instead, it calls for policy makers to cap interest rates if they are deemed to be too high or if they prevent low-income Mexicans from obtaining credit.      The legislation would prohibit banks from charging fees that “distort healthy banking practices,” according to the initiative. Banks wouldn’t be able to charge fees for consulting account balances under the measure.

Source: IXE 16.04.2009

[26.03.2009] Two Mexican Senate committees approved proposals to overhaul financial sector regulations that if passed into law would give authorities greater scope to limit the interest rates and commissions that banks charge their customers.

Mexico is not alone. The U.S. Senate Banking Committee will meet on March 31 to consider pro-consumer credit card legislation.

The current credit cards comissions and interest rates in Mexico, charged by foreign banks are the higest in the World and cause to great concern for social instability, for example:

HSBC                 charges 72% p.a. in Mexico  vs.  16%  in the UK

ScotiaBank     charges 61% p.a. in Mexico vs.  18%  in Canada

BBVA                 charges 80% p.a. in Mexico vs. 25% in Spain

Citi/Banamex charges 77% p.a. in Mexico vs.   9% in the US

According to Mexico Bankers Association (ABM) in 2008 there where  26.2 milion credit card holding individuals, which spend  478 Bn pesos ( 33.7 bn US$).

Credit cards might as well be the next bubble to burst, see the Reuters special on consumer credit concerns.

The Finance Commission and the Legislative Studies Commission approved the bill late Wednesday with the backing of senators from the three largest political parties. The commissions said they hope to submit a final draft to the full Senate as soon as possible, according to a Senate press release.

The measure would then be sent to the lower house. The plan would give the Bank of Mexico greater power to regulate commissions and interest rates, ban fees for checking balances at bank branches and require lenders to offer a basic credit card product without “excessive charges.”

Fees and commissions of close to 56.3 bn pesos (3.97 bn US$) last year accounted for about 27% of banks’ operating income, according to National Banking and Securities Commission data.

Five of Mexico’s top seven banks are owned by foreigners. Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBV) and Banco Santander SA (STD) of Spain, Citigroup Inc. (C) of the U.S., HSBC Holdings PLC  ( HBC) of the U.K., and Canada’s Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS) control 68% of bank loans and 69% of deposits.

Source: El Financiero, El Economista,Dow Jones,Reuters,AFP  26.03.2009

Filed under: Banking, Mexico, News, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,