China Banking Research

Last month, Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology became the first company to default in China's bond market when it failed to make a full payment on the issued debt. This shows that the Chinese state is not going to back up even big private borrowers. Several other companies are also on the verge of debt insolvency, according to local media sources, with government debt also on the rise.

Accroding to the latest figures from the CBRC (China Banking Regulatory Commission), Chinese banks’ asset quality deteriorated as the balance of bad loans continued rising from RMB 492.9 billion in 2012 to RMB 592.1 billion in 2013. However, as banks wrote off significant amounts of bad loans in 2013, the bad loans ratio grew only slightly from 0.95% to 1%, leaving the asset quality in relatively good shape. The largest outstanding bad loans are from the big five banks, who have hit a 10 year peak of bad loans - in total, they have written off RMB 59 billion up significantly from 2012. 

The large amount of write-offs prevent the bad loan ratio from growing fast. In addition, Chinese banks have a relatively higher provision coverage ratio, so they are able to write off more. As China is in the middle of an economic transistion, we estimate that banks’ bad loans will continue rising as exports continue to slow and industry shifts excess capacity. Further 2014 write-offs will be supported by the CBRC’s latest guidance.

20140410 BadLoanWriteoff

Once known for its economic development zone, the rich Yangtze river delta now has become a hotbed for something else: non-performing loans. 

The latest data from big five banks’ 2013 annual report shows that the cumulative profits in 2013 were RMB 870.3 Billion, accounting for approximately 60% of the banking industry. However, comparing with previous years’ performance, the net Chinese banks' profit growth rate of 2013 has slowed with the exception of BOC, which increased slightly. This decreased profitability is mainly due to narrowed net interest margin. Last year, in the context of interest rate reform and the influence from money funds, banks have been facing challenge and forced to transform. This will likely continue to become more pronounced in the future as banks are heavily reliant on interest income rather than fee income. 

China Big Five Bank Profits Continue to struggle

This past weekend Alibaba and Baidu met with the People's Bank of China (PBOC) in a closed door session to discuss the ongoing challenges with Chinese online finance regulation. The fact that the regulators are consulting with the industry is a great sign that the regulations will (hopefully) be built on consultation and discussion, and as both Baidu and Alibaba have intentions of setting up their own private banks, it's likely in their best interest to sit down with the regulators as well.

On March 15, 2014, the PBOC announced that the daily RMB/USD exchange rate float range in the Chinese interbank market would increase to ±2%, which will be implemented on March 17. The chart below shows the expansion of fluctuation range for RMB/USD spot, which is meaningful to Chinese FX market.

Analysts from Kapronasia believe that it is an important step towards fully internationalization of RMB. The data below also illustrate that Chinese government is accelerating the process of internationalization of RMB. We are looking forward to further FX market reform, in the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone, or in the whole country in 2014.  

 

RMB interbank spot rate

Over the past week news headlines have been awash with how Chinese banks are pushing back against Alibaba's Yuebao and Laicitong as the online finance products have rapidly grown their AUM at the expense of bank deposits. The banks now are expanding their push though and are challenging money funds' market share in China.

In another foray from the Internet giant into high finance, Alibaba recently announced that one million virtual credit cards will be issued next week. 

File under: 'another bank losing out to money funds', but numbers from Ping An Bank show just how difficult things are getting for banks in China.

An interesting graphic from IDC and WSJ looks at the declining growth rate in smartphone sales in China. China's smartphone market is maturing.

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