Long-term debt quota increases for foreign banks

Updated: 2012-03-30 07:31

By Chen Jia (China Daily)

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NDRC says move will promote further opening of financial sector

China raised its annual long-term debt quota for foreign banks to $24 billion on Thursday, signaling an accelerated process of financial opening-up to help fuel economic growth amid a sluggish global recovery.

The National Development and Reform Commission selected six pilot foreign lenders - HSBC Holdings Plc, Deutsche Bank AG, Citigroup, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, JP Morgan and Bank of East Asia - to share the big loan pool, a statement released on its website said on Thursday.

The NDRC said the move was aimed at promoting the opening-up of the financial sector and "pushing forward national economic development".

China borrowed $44.4 billion in long-term debt from foreign banks last year, compared with $42.2 billion in 2010, according to data from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange.

The growth in foreign loans showed the government's desire to offset slowing inbound foreign direct investment in the first two months of this year, analysts said.

Currently, controlling the long-term foreign debt quota is an important measure for the Chinese government to manage foreign capital inflows and maintain a stable financial system.

Long-term debt quota increases for foreign banks

This latest move is a sign that the central authorities are pushing capital account opening, following the State Council's announcement on Wednesday that it had approved a financial reform pilot program that will allow residents of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, to invest privately overseas and set up loan companies, according to the NDRC.

"Citi welcomes the approval to take part in this pilot given our strong commitment to supporting the needs of leading Chinese companies," said a manager of Citigroup in China who refused to give his name.

The relatively tight monetary policy has pressed domestic commercial banks to control credit.

In February, new yuan-denominated loans rose by 710 billion yuan, 24.7 billion yuan less than in January, leading to a lower-than-expected total credit amount that restrained the expansion of industrial output, said Zhen Feng, a researcher from the Institute of International Finance at Bank of China Ltd.

"The expansion of bank loans from both China and overseas can encourage industrial production and investment, preventing a sharp drop in economic growth," Zhen said.

According to the NDRC's statement, foreign lenders that issue yuan-denominated loans with a maturity of more than one year should report their general plans for the debt, including the amount, maturity and overseas creditors.

Outstanding foreign debt held by foreign banks in China stood at $54 billion at the end of 2011, including both long-term and short-term debt. That accounted for 12.13 percent of China's total foreign debt, according to government data.

Wang Xiaotian and Reuters contributed to this story.


(China Daily 03/30/2012 page15)