China brokers tumble as Citic staff detained, rescue costs grow

The arrest of four Citic Securities executives caused Chinese brokerages to tumble on Monday, Aug 31, 2015.
The arrest of four Citic Securities executives caused Chinese brokerages to tumble on Monday, Aug 31, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China's brokerages tumbled after four Citic Securities Co. executives were detained and people familiar with the matter said the industry was told to contribute another 100 billion yuan (S$22.10 billion) to a stock market rescue fund.

Citic executives including managing directors Xu Gang and Liu Wei admitted alleged insider trading, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said. The nation's largest brokerage fell as much as the maximum 10 per cent in Shanghai and slid to the lowest since May 2014 in Hong Kong. A Citic press officer declined to comment.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission ordered the rescue-fund contributions at a meeting with 50 brokerages on Saturday that was attended by CSRC Chairman Xiao Gang, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the meeting hasn't been made public. The regulator encouraged listed brokerages to buy back shares worth as much as 10 percent of their total market value, the people said.

Two months into the Chinese government's campaign to prop up the market, the securities industry's expanding role in the salvage job highlights a Bank of America Corp. warning that their earnings and balance sheets may suffer. In early July, after 21 brokerages pledged 120 billion yuan for stock purchases, Bank of America analyst David Cui said they could be the biggest losers from the rescue.

"To the Chinese government, calling on brokerages to do their national service is just like a mother asking her sons," said Oliver Rui, a Shanghai-based finance professor at China European International Business School. "It's unimaginable in the U.S. market, but in China it makes sense, because the government is the largest shareholder of many brokerages."

While investors may want to steer clear of brokerages in the short term, the securities firms will benefit in the longer term from the government's efforts to stabilize the market and root out corruption, Prof Rui said.

In the initial rescue measures arranged in July, the largest brokerages also said they would refrain from selling their own holdings of shares until the Shanghai Composite Index reached 4,500. It was closer to 3,200 on Monday.

Citic has tumbled 58 per cent in Hong Kong from an April high.

Matthew Smith, a Shanghai-based analyst for Macquarie Group Ltd., said the implications for brokers of their latest financial contribution to the rescue would depend on whether they were only loaning money to China Securities Finance Corp., the agency purchasing shares, or would be exposed to the stock purchased. That information is not public.

China revived its rescue program on Aug. 27 after a halt earlier in the week contributed to the biggest two-day selloff since 1996. Policy makers are trying to bolster shares through a mix of market intervention and a crackdown on alleged manipulation before President Xi Jinping oversees a World War II victory parade on Thursday.

Xinhua's latest report on alleged stock-linked corruption focused on six people including Citic's heads of financial business, Fang Qingli, and alternative investments, Chen Rongjie, along with a securities official and a journalist. All were detained on Sunday, the news agency said.

Wang Xiaolu, a journalist for Caijing, admitted wrongly reporting on July 20 that the CSRC was studying an exit from support measures, causing panic and confusion, Xinhua said. He is cooperating in the hope of a reduced punishment, it added. Two calls to Caijing went unanswered on Monday morning. The magazine previously said it would cooperate with the authorities.

Liu Shufan, a CSRC staff member, admitted making millions of yuan from insider trading in shares of two companies last year and also to forging documents in connection with an apartment purchase, Xinhua said. No comment was immediately available from the CSRC.