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Recently, Alipay, China’s largest third-party payment company, released its sound wave payment mobile product, which is the first time that “sound payments” have been commercialized in China. Customers can now pay for goods from the vending machines deployed by Alipay in Beijing’s subway through the sound wave payment.

According to the China Securities Journal, the quality of credit assets is again appearing as an issue for Chinese banks. The latest annual report shows that the non-performing loan (NPL) balance and non-performing loan (NPL) ratio both increased in 2012, a sharp move from the “double decreasing” in both NPL balance and NPL ratio in the previous years.

The total NPL balance in the 11 listed banks was ¥385.38 billion in 2012 with a YOY growth rate of 8.1% compared to ¥356.6 billion in 2011. China Construction Bank believes the upward trend in NPL is due to the macroeconomic fluctuations in manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and real estate.

The trust industry is currently the fastest growing segment in China's asset management industry so far in 2013. In Q4 2012, the total trust AUM was about US$1.195 trillion. At the end of Q1 2013, this number had reached about US$1.395 trillion representing a growth rate of about 16.7%. That growth rate is actually faster than the growth rate of bank loans / deposits, market growth of the securities market, bonds, funds and insurance industry.

 

According to CCW Research, a local Chinese IT market research company, China’s financial industry IT software spend in 2012 grew to 49 billion RMB and the spending will keep a steady growth in 2013. Banking segment spend is a key driver, making up about 72% of total spend. Comprehensive risk management and big data are the main IT focus areas for banks.

As securities companies continuously launch new business, CCW estimates that IT spending on new business-related solutions in the securities sub-segment will increase considerably in future. 

For insurance companies, the overall IT infrastructure is still very nascent. Large players will invest more money into the development and update of core systems.

In order to facilitate the RMB’s cross-border settlement and promote the global use of the RMB, China’s central bank (the PBOC) is now building an international payment system called as CIPS (The China International Payment System). This CIPS is expected to take one or two years to launch and will make cross-border RMB trade settlement more efficient and safer.

Last month, China Mobile, the biggest mobile network operator (MNO) in China, and China UnionPay (CUP) unveiled their latest mobile payment product – “Mobile Wallet”- at MWC 2013 (Mobile Word Congress, the world’s premier mobile industry event).

Kapronasia's latest report Trading China - A Look at the Issues and Opportunities in China's Capital Markets is now available in the research reports section of the Kapronasia website. The report, sponsored by Equinix, is a detailed look at the challenges and opportunities in China's capital markets. The report is free, but does require registration to download. For more information on the report, please look in the research reports section of the website above. 

In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal wrote about how although mobile payments are slow to take off in China, telephone or 'fixed-line' payments are actually doing quite well and actually hugely dwarfs mobile payments. When you consider the history of the 5 major banks and their alignment with particular sectors, it's no surprise that the Agricultural Bank of China would be leveraging this kind of business model, but what is interesting is the way that the model completely avoids mobile payments. It's almost as if the bank (industry?) in China is saying 'ok, so no standards on mobile, we'll innovate with what we have.' Which is actually not tremendously different that what we're seeing in other markets where the adoption of a consistent mobile payments standard seems inconsistent at best...

The Hedge Fund Association, in conjunction with Bloomberg, hosted the HFA - Bloomberg Shanghai Hedge Fund Panel Discussion: International Hedge Funds and Direct Investment in China, in Shanghai on January 5th, 2013. During the event, three experts shared their insight into the challenges and opportunities in China’s hedge fund industry in 2013. I had the opportunity to attend on behalf of Kapronasia and summarized some of my conclusions from the event here:

The 2nd Annual eTail Conference was held from 27th to 28th November, 2012 in Shanghai. Kapronasia was invited to attend the event to speak on a few payment related topics along with other industry experts. The conference's topics included e-commerce trends and strategies, cross border shopping challenges, and IT implementation on e-payment.

Margin trading is an important part of financial markets, especially for derivatives although the use of margin trading is still somewhat controversial in certain markets. In China, margin trading is relatively new and the phenomenon and behaviors observed in the markets from the use of margin trading are quite different from those of western markets. In order to better understand the markets, its worth taking some time to analyze the differences and provide suggestions to utilize the opportunities from the development of Chinese margin trading market development.

In the past we haven’t spent too much time looking at the development of China’s financial futures market, but if you were to ask any China capital markets observer what some of the most important reforms of the past few years included, the introduction of the financial futures market would be one of them.

The CSRC’s latest figures show that 57 funds obtained QFII (Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor) licenses in the first 10 months of 2012, far more than any previous year since the program’s inception in 2003. This is a positive signal that foreign investors are more keen to invest in China. Moreover, on Nov. 14th, 2012, Chinese regulators decided to expand the quota by 200 billion yuan to specifically attract RQFII investments; it is predicted that the quota will soon be used up and likely regulators will continue to increase the quota amount.

China Mobile, the biggest mobile network operator in China, continues to grow its mobile payment business which was first launched in 2010. At the end of September 2012, China Mobile had 60 million registered mobile payment users with a total transaction value of reached 25 billion RMB, 2.5 times as much as in 2011.

In 2012, other key players in China’s mobile payment market also expanded their business. At the end of October 2012, the number of China Telecom’s mobile payment users exceeded 8 million; China UnionPay also announced that so far it has 4 million mobile payment users, compared with 2 million in 2011. The data from Alipay (China’s biggest third-party payment company) showed that as of the end of May 2012, Alipay had 10 million users conducting payment through their mobile phone and the number was increasing by about 90,000 every day.

We expect that China’s mobile payment business will grow faster in the future, with the number of mobile users surging to 400 million in 2015.

Kapronasia is pleased to announce the next webinar in our ongoing series covering China's Financial Services Industry. The November 21st webinar will be looking at the current status and future development of China's Credit Card industry. More information on the webinar and information on how to register can be found here.

The webinar is free and open to all.

Shanghai has been authorized to become the first pilot city for a new RMB cross-border program – RQFLP (Qualified Foreign Limited Partner, RQFLP) which means offshore RMB can be raised and used for private equity investments in the Mainland. Following traditional FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) and RQFII (RMB Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors), RQFLP has become a new channel for the backflow of offshore RMB. Bank of Shanghai and the Hong Kong subsidiary of Haitong Securities (one of biggest securities in mainland China) have signed a memorandum of cooperation to be the first to issue RQFLP products in Hong Kong. The total quota is about 1 billion RMB. Bank of Shanghai will provide custody services and Haitong securities will take charge of the design and issuance of the RQFLP products in Hong Kong. After being raised in Hong Kong, these offshore RMB will enter into Shanghai for private equity investments.

So we’ve just come out of the October holiday here in China and are headed in the final frantic few months before Chinese New Year. The difference this year is the early November once in a decade leadership transition where nearly every Chinese leader and politician will be replaced and/or shifted around in China’s Communist Party. It was never in doubt that the transition would happen towards the end of this year, but it was only in the last few weeks that it became clear it would happen in early November.

This is an important transition for the government and only the second peaceful transition of power in recent China’s recent history. The transition is even more important because of the critical social and economic challenges that the country is facing right now. A slow/stagnant world economy and increased but still limited domestic consumption is limiting China’s economy as a whole which is exacerbating the internal challenges it is facing – one of the most critical being the increasing delta between the haves and have nots. If you have been reading international media recently, we’re starting to see more and more of this discrepancy being uncovered and it does nothing to help the government in the eyes of the people.

More specifically to the financial industry however, the transition means increased change. We’ve seen this already this year especially in the capital markets as the new chief regulators have done quite a bit to open the capital markets this year with increased rumours that regulation on the RFQLP programme should be announced shortly, adding yet another channel for off-shore RMB to come back into China’s mainland markets.

The shift in policy is also indicative of China’s increased awareness of money leaving China. With reports of both wealthy individuals and corporations legally and illegally sending money abroad, the issue which used to be too much hot money coming in, is now too much hot money going out. To a certain extent, this is a bit of a blessing in disguise for China as it will allow regulators to further open the market without risking the hot money inflows – which was viewed as a challenge in the past.

With the party congress set for November of this year, we’re unlikely to see too much more change until after Chinese New Year (Feb 2013). What we should be able to quickly determine though is how open the new leaders are to change and modernization of all industries, not just the financial services industry. As we’ve discussed on our blog before, this will largely depend on how quickly the new leaders can consolidate their power to be able to effect change and in which direction they decide to go.

Regardless, 2013 will be a new watershed for China’s financial services industry. Stay tuned early next year for our 2013 top financial technology trends report to see how we see things changing.

According to the latest semiannual reports issued by China’s commercial banks, e-banking continues to grow in importance as a part of banks’ business. For most of banks, e-banking channels has already contributed to over 60% of total transaction volume with the 5 large commercial banks’ total e-banking transactions showing a 35% growth rate year on year. Benefiting from the advancement of IT and the proliferation of smart mobile phone in China, mobile banking has become increasingly convenient for users and important for banks. 

In order to meet the strong demand for mobile banking, banks continue to update their mobile banking applications and launch new functions to enhance the user experience. For instance, Agricultural Bank released its new iPhone-enabled mobile banking app which not only supports banking transactions but also integrates online shopping. Bank of China launched the first Windows-enabled mobile banking application recently. We expect that in the future banks will offer more value-added services on their mobile banking products through innovations and ensure safe and reliable systems.

Earlier this week, Burberry announced lower than expected earnings which largely disappointed and somewhat scared markets. Their slowdown is global, but a key challenge was declining luxury spend from Chinese consumers – which is seen by many as a bellwether for the rest of a general industry slowdown. We’ve talked about luxury spending in China in the past, but it’s worth considering the implications of a potential slowdown in the luxury industry and the implications if the slowdown is indeed an indicator of a shift in the habits of China’s wealthy.

In 2013, China will take over Japan as the biggest consumer of IT products in Asia. According to IDC, China's total IT market size in 2012 is projected to reach 155 billion US dollars, with 20% growth rate YOY, and in 2013, this number will reach 170 billion dollars, 4% more than that of Japan. During China's Five Year Plan period (from 2011 to 2015), companies must invest more in their IT infrastructure to meet the demands of stable growth and innovations.

In the banking industry,  total IT spending (software and services) in 2011 exceeded 15 billion US dollars, with a 19% growth rate compared to 2010, and, according to IDC, China's banking IT spending will keep a 20% CAGR (Compound Average Growth Rate), hitting 39 billion dollars in 2016. We expect that the new generation of core banking systems, risk control, big data analysis and mobile payment will be the main driving forces behind the IT spend.  

Kapronasia's latest report looking at the state of China's 3rd Party Online Payments Industry is now available on Kapronasia.com under the research report section.

If you are a subscriber to Kapronasia's Banking Advisory Service, the report can be downloaded after you have logged into your account. If you are not a subscriber, but are interested in purchasing the report, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The recording of the 3rd Party Online Payment webinar is also available in the webinar section of the website.

The Banking on China report is now available on the Kapronasia website in the research reports section. The report from Oracle and Kapronasia looks at the key challenges and opportunities for international banks in China and is based on numerous interviews with both larger and smaller banks in China. The complimentary report is available for download after you have logged into your Kapronasia.com user account. If you do not have an account, register today for free. 

Kapronasia's latest report looking at the state of China's Prepaid Card Industry is now available on Kapronasia.com under the research report section.

If you are a subscriber to Kapronasia's Banking Advisory Service, the report can be downloaded after you have logged into your account. If you are not a subscriber, but are interested in purchasing the report, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The recording of the Prepaid Card webinar is also available in the webinar section.

Kapronasia's 3rd Party Online Payment Industry webinar recording is now available in the webinar section of kapronasia.com. Thank you to everyone who attended. We hope you found it useful.

Please keep an eye out for Kapronasia's Q3 and Q4 webinars. 

On 27th July 2012, Shanghai Stock Exchange announced a guideline on measures for terminating the listings of poorly performing companies or “special treatment” (ST) companies.

According to the guideline, companies will be traded on a soon to be created new board for 30 trading days before being completely removed from the bourse. During their remaining days on the exchange, shares must trade within a required price range. The upper limit of the daily price movement is 1% while the lower limit is 5%. In addition, an investor can only buy up to 500,000 ST shares each trading day, the guideline suggested.

The new stock-delisting rules are part of broader financial reforms to China’s capital markets, in line with CSRC’s recent statement to launch an efficient system to delisted companies on the foundation of an investor-protection system. It is believed that the introduction of a delisting mechanism will lower volatility, preventing speculators from betting on dramatic fluctuations of underperforming stocks and therefore enhancing the soundness of the market.

Kapronasia will be hosting a webinar on August 8th, 2012 looking at China's Online Payments market. 

For more information on the webinar, please see the webinar description here or to register directly, go here.

The webinar is complimentary and will be looking at aspects of Kapronasia's soon to be released Online Payments Market in China report.

The World Economic Outlook Update published on July 16, 2012 announced that IMF revised its forecast for China’s GDP growth rate from 8.2% to 8.0% for this year and from 8.8% to 8.5% for next year. This down-rated outlook followed the recent announcement that China’s economy had grown at only 7.6% for 2012Q2, below the target of 8%. Recent news apparently drew a pessimistic picture for investors and consumers: risk of a hard landing is heightened.

In our opinion, however, the IMF revision could be a catalyst to refuel China’s economy. In fact, many analysts hold the view that the China’s authority is likely to announce more interest rate cuts and deposit reserve ratio reductions to further bolster the credit supply and reactivate the liquidity in the economy, which are essential to promote investment. As a result, consumer confidence will be maintained for the economic growth.

A recording of Kapronasia's Prepaid Cards in China webinar is now available for viewing on Kapronasia.com. To access the recording, click on the webinar link at the top of the website.

Recently, a WTO dispute panel, in response to the recent US complaint, said China is breaking the WTO rules by maintaining CUP as a monopoly supplier for the clearing of certain types of RMB-denominated payment card transactions. The specific areas where the panel determined that China had discriminated against foreign bank card suppliers are that 1) China requires all payment cards issued in China to work with the CUP network and to carry its logo, and 2) China forces all payment terminals to accept CUP network.

Trend 1: Fourth Round of Payment Licenses

If you remember from our previous commentaries, in 2011, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) mandated that any company providing payment products or services be licensed in order to operate. This brought a much needed dose of regulation to what was previously quite an unregulated industry. Since then, 4 rounds of payment licenses have been approved, the last being on June 28th, when another 95 payment companies qualified to provide payment products and services in China.

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