Stricter rules being considered for P2P lenders

Updated: 2015-03-18 10:27

By Cai Xiao(China Daily)

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Industry players fear thresholds, conditions could be too harsh and limit development

China's banking regulator is considering setting a threshold for market access, and introducing strict conditions on the leverage management of Chinese peer-to-peer lending companies, which industry experts said could help control risks, but also limit the sector's development.

P2P lending platforms differ from others, in that they lend money to unrelated individuals, or peers, without using a traditional financial intermediary such as a bank.

A source with the China Banking Regulatory Commission said it had held an internal meeting last week to discuss regulating the P2P sector, but final rules had yet to be set.

The general manager of one leading Chinese P2P company, who said he had seen the document, told China Daily the draft rules include the setting of a minimum of 30 million yuan ($4.8 million) in registered capital for operators, and companies not being allowed to open actual financial outlets, such as branches.

While accepting that "setting entry barriers is necessary because they can lower risks", the general manager, who declined to be named, said the most controversial rule, was that the regulator would have leverage management over companies, which means the amount of outstanding loans cannot exceed its registered capital, by a still-undetermined multiple, which he thought could be as low as 10 times.

"If the level of leverage management is too strict, many big players will be seriously hit," he said.

"But I believe the final rules will be looser than the draft ones."

According to data from Wangdaizhijia, a portal offering Internet lending information, the registered capital of P2P company, for instance, was 836.7 million yuan last year and it had cumulative outstanding loans worth 11.1 billion, which meant its multiple had been around 13.3. But the multiple of another large P2P company in China, HongLing Capital, was almost 236, according to the data.

Yi Huanhuan, head of the research department of Beijing-based Hongyuan Securities Co Ltd, said "P2P companies are information intermediaries" and offer a good option for the nation's direct financing industry.

"If the CBRC has leverage management over them, many of them will die and the rest will be similar to banks," said Yi.

Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, the central bank, indicated last week that the government is preparing a policy document for the Internet finance sector.

Zhou said the P2P sector has been plagued by problems in recent times, including the disappearance of executives and rising defaults, and that regulations are now needed for the sector's healthy future development.

The latest official figures suggest 252 billion yuan worth of lending-largely carried out online-was conducted on P2P lending platforms last year, 181.8 percent more than in 2013.

But with 275 companies involved in P2P lending filing for bankruptcy or running into difficulties due to bad loans or fraud, the sector is being shown to carry as much risk as potential rewards and benefits, and officials insist more laws are urgently needed, especially when it comes to disputes. Industry sources suggest that in the first two months of 2015, as many as 132 P2P companies have hit problems.

Jiang Xueqing contributed to this story.