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News from China
China’s ‘Big Four’ lenders record rising bad loans
31st August 2016

 ALL of China’s “Big Four” state-owned banks reported mounting bad loans in the first half of the year, statements showed, as the world’s second-largest economy faces souring debt amid slowing growth.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s biggest lender by assets, said its non-performing loan ratio rose to 1.55 percent at the end of June, up from 1.5 percent at the end of last year, said a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange filed yesterday.

Still its net profit for the first six months edged up 0.8 percent annually to 150.66 billion yuan (US$22.6 billion), it said.

China’s three other giant state-owned banks have reported similar results in recent days, with all of their bad loan ratios creeping upwards as Beijing seeks to boost the world’s second-largest economy with an infusion of cheap credit.

Analysts have warned that a debt-fueled rebound might be short-lived and ballooning borrowings risk sparking a financial crisis as bad loans and bond defaults increase.

Bank of China’s earnings statement yesterday showed its NPL ratio rising to 1.47 at the end of June, up from 1.43 in December.

Last week the country’s number two lender, the China Construction Bank, said its NPL ratio had risen 0.05 percentage point to 1.63 percent, while the Agricultural Bank of China reported a figure of 2.4 percent, slightly higher than last year.

China’s total debt hit 168.48 trillion yuan at the end of last year, equivalent to 249 percent of national GDP, top government think tank the China Academy of Social Sciences has estimated.

Authorities have unveiled policies intended to tackle the problem of souring loans, including debt-for-equity swaps. But some analysts fear this would simply extend life support to debt-saddled “zombie” companies that are weighing down the economy.

Earlier this summer an official with China’s banking regulator said Chinese banks had written off over US$300 billion of bad loans in the past three years.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 31, 2016
German export growth view cut as Brexit impact looms
30th August 2016

 GERMANY’S BGA trade association slashed its 2016 forecast for export growth yesterday, predicting sales abroad by Europe’s biggest economy would later stagnate as the delayed impact of Brexit hit home.

Global demand for German goods has slowed significantly, with Britain’s decision to leave the European Union among several factors increasing uncertainties and complicating investment decisions, BGA chief Anton Boerner said.

“The repercussions (of Brexit) will impact us massively in the near future,” he said.

That effect has yet to be felt in the export sector, which the association forecast in April would grow by 4.5 percent this year. “I (now) think growth of only between 1.8 and 2.0 percent is feasible this year,” Boerner said.

Exports, traditionally the main driver of Germany’s economy, rose by 6.5 percent as recently as 2015, but Boerner said the outlook beyond 2016 was bleak. “Exports are set to stagnate, possibly as early as 2017 if viewed pessimistically,” Boerner said. “We’re hitting the ceiling.”

Germany releases trade figures next week for July, which are likely to show the first clear evidence of fallout from Britain’s June referendum vote.

German exports to Britain, its third most important market, stagnated year on year in the first six months at around 44.8 billion euros (US$50.1 billion).

Further afield, Germany’s trade prospects are also clouded by uncertainty about the US presidential election, the rise of nationalist movements in Europe, and other crises including the failed July 15 coup in Turkey and the civil war in Syria, Boerner said.

Exports to the United States and France, Germany’s two biggest markets, declined 4 percent to 53.4 billion euros and 2 percent to 52.1 billion euros respectively in the first half.

Demand from emerging markets was subdued, with exports to China only inching up 1 percent and Brazil falling by almost a fifth.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 30, 2016
SOE eyes investment in P2P site
29th August 2016

 A Chinese state-owned enterprise said yesterday it will invest in an online lending platform after regulators unveiled restrictions to regulate the market.

China-reform Commercial & Industrial Development Group, an SOE engeged in real estate and mineral resources development, signed a strategic investment agreement with peer-to-peer lending platform, which provides financing for automobile purchases.

P2P lending, which refers to lending not from a traditional financial institution such as a bank, has grown quickly in China in past years as investors seek higher returns while small businesses and individuals find it easier to secure funds online.

More SOEs have invested in P2P lending platforms as they bank on their growth potential.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 29, 2016
Aging to cost Asia US$20t by 2030
26th August 2016

 ASIA’S population is aging faster than anywhere in the world, a study said yesterday, warning the swelling ranks of the elderly will cost the region US$20 trillion in healthcare by 2030.

Health systems, businesses and families across Asia-Pacific will come under huge pressure as 200 million people will be over 65 by then, said Singapore-based Asia Pacific Risk Center.

Yearly spending on caring for the elderly is expected to reach US$2.5 billion — five times the cost in 2015, the study said.

“The Asia-Pacific region is aging at a faster rate than any other region in the world,” said APRC executive director Wolfram Hedrich.

Surging growth in Asia over the past few decades prompted a baby boom in many Asia-Pacific countries, creating a large and cheap labor force that in turn boosted productivity and incomes.

But that trend is now reversing as the baby-boomers age, leaving the young to look after them — either by staying at home or paying for their care.

“Many Asia-Pacific countries are transiting from a period when they reaped a ‘demographic dividend’ to one where they face the prospect of paying a ‘demographic tax’,” the study said.

By 2030, there will be 511 million elderly people in the region, out of 3.8 billion, it said.

Japan will become the first “ultra-aged” country, with elderly people accounting for 28 percent of its population, while a fifth of people in Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan will be 65.

The APRC warned governments would need to invest heavily to care for their aging populations, warning current levels are “unsustainable” as medical costs are growing faster than the economy in many countries.

Asia’s aging rate is “an unprecedented challenge,” said the study, which covered 14 Asia-Pacific markets.

“The problem is big, it’s very urgent,” said Hedrich, adding that finding solutions will be complex.

“What we want to achieve with this report is to act as a broad call of action for governments, individuals, insurers, healthcare professionals and organizations to start acting now.”

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 26, 2016

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