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News from China
Chinese shares open higher Wednesday
30th March 2016

Chinese stocks opened higher on Wednesday, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index up 0.73 percent, at 2,941.22 points.

The smaller Shenzhen index opened 0.92 percent higher at 10,187.64 points. The ChiNext Index, tracking China's NASDAQ-style board of growth enterprises, gained 0.83 percent to open at 3,161.29 points
Source: Xinhua
FTZ push drives offshore yuan loans
29th March 2016

 SHANGHAI banks conducted offshore yuan lending of 66.1 billion yuan (US$10.2 billion) last year, a surge of 119 percent year on year, as they tapped financial reforms to transact more cross-border business, the city’s banking regulator said yesterday.

“The expansion of the offshore business paid off after the city pushed forward the pilot free trade zone and encouraged the building of an international innovation and technology center,” Liao Min, head of the China Banking Regulatory Commission Shanghai Office, told a media conference with other financial regulators in Shanghai.

Another piece of good news is that the banking sector’s non-performing loans and the bad-loan ratio fell, Liao said.

Shanghai’s banking sector posted a fall in the bad-loan ratio to 0.87 percent at the end of February, he said. The figure was lower than 0.91 percent at the end of December and an average ratio of 1.67 percent among lenders countrywide.

Assets under management by Shanghai banks totaled 12.98 trillion yuan at the end of 2015, almost two times the scale five years ago.

Liao said the major task during the 13th Five-Year (2016-2020) Plan is to ensure sufficient liquidity in the real economy as well as managing systemic and regional risks.

“Shanghai’s banking regulator will tighten risk management and strengthen precautions on fundraising, bill financing and commercial property services,” Liao said.

He also said no bank employees in Shanghai were involved in illegal fundraising last year.

“We plan to establish a risk prevention system with securities and insurance regulators to crack down on any violation in the industry,” Liao said. “That would help to prevent risks transferring from one sector to another.”

Source: Shanghai Daily, March 29, 2016
China's industrial profits return to growth
28th March 2016

Profits of China's major industrial firms rose 4.8 percent year on year in the first two months of 2016, reversing the downward trend of last year, official data showed Sunday.

Profits at industrial companies with annual revenues of more than 20 million yuan (about 3.1 million U.S. dollars) totaled 780.7 billion yuan in the Jan.-Feb. period, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.

The profits registered a 4.7 percent year-on-year fall in December and a 2.3 percent annual decrease in 2015.

He Ping, an official with the NBS Department of Industry, attributed the latest profit growth to increased sales and a milder decline in factory product prices.

In the first two months, revenues from the firms' primary business climbed 1 percent year on year, improving from a 0.6 percent drop in December 2015 and a 0.8 percent increase for last year.

In the Jan.-Feb. period, China's producer price index, which measures prices of goods at factory gate, slipped 5.1 percent year on year, narrowing from a drop of 5.9 percent in December and 5.2 percent for 2015.

Despite the recovery, part of the industrial profit growth was a result of the lower base in the same period of last year, He noted.

Industrial profits dipped 4.2 percent year on year in the Jan.-Feb. period of 2015, NBS data showed.

Compared with the same period of 2014, the Jan.-Feb. industrial profits of this year only inched up 0.4 percent, said He.

Source: Xinhua
China makes gains, faces hurdles in extending financial services
25th March 2016

 By removing systematic blocks and adopting new technology, China will be able to expand access to financial services to all people, according to experts at the Boao Forum conference.

Recent changes by China's rural and private financial institutions will help relieve obstacles to inclusive finance, which have held back the nation's anti-poverty efforts, according to experts at the 2016 Annual Conference of the Boao Forum for Asia, held in China's island province of Hainan.
With a bad loan rate of 88.3 percent, Hainan Rural Credit Union, a rural credit cooperative in Hainan, was on the verge of collapse in 2007. Over the past nine years, the cooperative has focused on rural microcredit, lending a total of 23 billion yuan (about 3.5 billion U.S. dollars) to Hainan's 600,000 rural households. The non-performing loan rate has dropped to less than 2 percent.
Thanks to financial education and agricultural training provided to borrowers, Wu Weixiong, board chairman of Hainan Rural Credit Union, isn't worried about the 23 billion yuan in loans his cooperative has made to the island's rural population.
"Our staff are experts in both finance and agriculture, which enables them to help farmers acquire necessary knowledge and techniques to make a living and pay back the loan," he told attendees at the "Inclusive Finance" Boao sub-forum.
Private financial institutions are also making financial services much more accessible to people who are underserved by traditional banks. Ant Financial, a financial arm established last June by the E-commerce giant Alibaba, has lent a total of 45 billion yuan to farmers, online merchants, restaurant owners and mom-and-pop stores, extending loans to 800,000 borrowers who have trouble accessing financial services.
Despite the efforts, a large proportion of the population still lacks access to financing, according to the experts.
"The core of the problem is that inclusive financing is badly needed by rural people," said Dong Wenbiao, board chairman of China Minsheng Investment Corp. Ltd., the nation's largest private equity firm.
The nation still has 55.75 million impoverished people in rural areas, official statistics showed.
Dong blamed "serious systematic deficiency" for the problem, saying that China's existing financial establishments, including the banking and insurance systems, don't support expanding access to finance. Large banks are inclined to lend to big companies with lower risk.
The lack of an individual credit system, high operational costs and risks, and the absence of an information-sharing mechanism have all worsened the situation, according to Li Yang, vice director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Inclusive finance will play a key role in China's goal of building a "well-off society" by 2020. The nation's financial industry should make itself available to all people, said Wu Xiaoling, vice chairwoman of the Financial and Economic Committee of the National People's Congress and former vice governor of the central bank.
More than 50 countries have set formal targets and goals for inclusive finance in recent years, indicating growing global recognition that access to financial services plays a critical role in reducing extreme poverty, boosting shared prosperity, and supporting sustainable development.
To clear hurdles, the State Council in January released the 2016-2020 Plan on the Development of Inclusive Finance, China's first national strategic plan on financial inclusion. It targeted building inclusive financial service and security systems that provide reasonably-priced, convenient and secure services to small companies, farmers, low-income urban households, the poor, the disabled and the elderly. It vowed to boost inclusive finance's development to a level comparable to the global average by 2020.
The government also reiterated in a report in March the development of inclusive finance to increase services for micro, small, and medium-sized businesses as well as for rural areas.
"To tackle the issue, systematic reforms are required," said Dong, suggesting that farmers should be endowed with land rights that can be viewed as assets when obtaining loans.
Ellen Richey, vice chairwoman of Risk and Public Policy at Visa Inc., said that China already has an advantage in fostering inclusive finance, as 79 percent of its residents have financial accounts, much higher than most countries. But account holders generally only use them for basic banking services or use them infrequently.
"The challenge to inclusive finance in China is not necessarily to get someone an account, but to give them an efficient way to use it," she said, adding that electronic payment and mobile phones will enable China to bypass expensive investment in infrastructure, such as terminals and telecommunications.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jenny Shipley called on lenders to form trust relationships based on human potential, rather than just looking at assets. Shipley said that micro-finance requires collaboration between multiple players, including governments, financial institutions and NGOs. 
Mu Xuequan
Source: Xinhua

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