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Debt crackdown bolsters China banks’ bottom lines

Shanghai, China | AFP – Three of China’s "big four" banks reported higher first-half profits on Wednesday thanks to a resilient economy and a government crackdown on excessive leveraging in the financial system that helped curb bad loans.

Net profit at Bank of China, the country’s main foreign exchange bank, grew 11.5 percent year-on-year in January-June to 103.69 billion yuan ($15.7 billion), the company said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange, where it is listed.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the world’s biggest lender in terms of total assets, said net profit grew 1.85 percent to 152.99 billion yuan. 

Agricultural Bank of China’s profit grew 3.3 percent to 108.59 billion yuan.

The banks have benefited from China’s faster-than-expected 6.9 percent economic growth in the first half.
They said bottom lines were further bolstered by the government campaign to cut mounting debt and dispose of bad loans.

The crackdown has seen tough guidelines laid down, big fines meted out and corporate figures arrested.

Bank of China said its non-performing loans (NPL) came in at 1.38 percent of total lending by the end of June, down from 1.46 percent at end-2016.

The bank said it "focused more attention on risk prevention and actively enhanced its comprehensive risk management" while it "stepped up efforts to collect and resolve NPLs".

ICBC said its NPLs dropped to 1.57 percent by June compare to 1.62 percent six months earlier as "the bank placed risk prevention and control higher on our priority list".

Agricultural Bank of China’s NPLs eased to 2.19 percent compared to 2.37 percent at end-2016.





Shares in major Chinese financial institutions have made particularly robust gains in recent weeks as overall investor sentiment has picked up.

"There’s a flight-to-safety attitude here,” Andrew Collier, managing director of Orient Capital Research, told Bloomberg TV before the banks released their earnings release.

"Go to the big banks, they’ve got captured deposits from everybody across China, they’ve got less of the shadow-banking junk on their balance sheets and so people have figured that’s the safer bet."

China’s fourth "big bank", China Construction Bank, is expected to post results later in the week.

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