China bank to try to turn S$2.17b of bad debt into securities

A security guard stands inside a branch of Agricultural Bank of China, in Beijing on June 25, 2015.
A security guard stands inside a branch of Agricultural Bank of China, in Beijing on June 25, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (BLOOMBERG) - Agricultural Bank of China is planning China's largest sale so far under a trial programme for lenders to offload bad loans by packaging them up as asset-backed securities.

The lender plans to sell securities backed by 10.7 billion yuan (S$2.17 billion) of non-performing loans on the interbank bond market, it said on July 22 on the Chinese bond clearing house website.

The sale price will be the equivalent of 29 per cent of the loans' face value, with the recovery rate on the debt forecast at 41 per cent, the lender's statement showed.

As corporate leverage soars and economic growth cools, China's banks face a rising tide of bad loans.

Ms Dorris Chen, a credit analyst at Pacific Investment Management Co, said last week that the Ministry of Finance would eventually have to inject capital into the banking system, without saying when.

The nation's efforts to get to grips with its credit woes include debt swaps for local governments, proposals for banks to swap loans for equity stakes in companies, and the trial of the NPL-backed securities.

The China Banking Regulatory Commission said on July 15 that the NPL securities programme - so far used by lenders including Bank of China Ltd and China Merchants Bank Co - would be expanded. It wasn't more specific.

Pimco's Chen was sceptical that large-scale sales of the securities would take place, citing investors' likely perceptions of the risks. In the sales so far, banks have been the biggest buyers - raising questions about how effective the deals are in cutting risks within the financial sector.

Agricultural Bank's securities will include a 2.06-billion yuan senior tranche and a 1-billion yuan subordinated tranche, the Beijing-based lender said.