China bank regulator to expand consumer finance pilot programme

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's banking regulator said it will expand a consumer financing pilot programme to 10 more cities as part of attempts to bring more private capital into lending markets.

In a statement on Friday, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said the expansion will meet demand from middle and lower income consumers, and boost consumption and private sector participation in the country's finance industry.

Access to credit in China is skewed towards large state-owned entities, and increasing loan facilities for consumers and small businesses is seen as crucial to rebalancing the economy towards one where growth is more driven by consumers.

China's household consumption was 34 per cent of gross domestic product in 2011, compared with a global average of 61 per cent, according to World Bank data. Annual growth in Chinese retail sales, which peaked at more than 22 per cent in February 2010, was 13.4 per cent this August.

The pilot programme is already under way through consumer finance companies in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chengdu.

Among the cities getting added are Chongqing, Guangzhou and Qingdao.

Non-bank financial institutions with total assets in the previous year of more than 80 billion yuan (S$16.3 billion) and net asset ratios of at least 30 per cent can apply to set up consumer finance companies.

They will be able to lend for purchases of consumer goods, but not to provide mortgages or car loans.

The regulator also said Hong Kong and Macau financial organisations would be allowed to establish consumer lending companies in test sites in southern China.