China economic watch article. There are warning signs written all over the Chinese economy at the moment.
Meet China’s Biggest Shadow Bank [The Peterson Institute for International Economics]
Shadow banks in China come in a variety of forms and guises. The term is applied to everything from trust companies and wealth management products to pawnshops and underground lenders. What surprising is that China’s biggest shadow bank is actually a creation of the central government and receives billions in financing directly from the banks. Even more interesting, this shadow bank recently pulled off a successful international IPO where it raised billions of dollars.First, let’s deal with the terminology. The “shadow” in shadow banking doesn’t imply nefarious doings, although it frequently involves a bit of regulatory arbitrage. At the most basic level, shadow banking is borrowing funds and extending credit outside of normal banking structures.
So what is this mysterious shadow bank that has such tight government connections? It’s none other than Cinda Asset Management Company, a creation of the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and the beneficiary of a recent 2.5 billion U.S. dollar IPO in Hong Kong. In terms of total assets, Cinda is more than 15 times as large as any of the country’s trust companies.
The normal business of a distressed asset management company (AMC) is not shadow banking. It involves purchasing troubled loans at a discount and trying to collect a higher amount from the debtors. Cinda was one of the four AMC’s created by the central government to bailout the banking sector in the 1990s. The initial round of bad debt purchasing was policy-directed, starting in the late 1990s and lasting through the mid-2000s. In the second half of the 2000s, the big four AMCs began to purchase NPLs from banks on commercial terms and in the process tried to transform themselves into market-oriented businesses.
Over the last three and a half years, Cinda’s business has diverged from this model. In addition to purchasing bad debts from banks and other financial institutions, it has accumulated a vast stock of distressed debt assets directly from non-financial corporations.