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New banking regulator signals risk prevention focus for 2017 agenda

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-03-02 23:16
Guo Shuqing, chairman of China's banking regulator, specified the commission's major tasks for 2017, with controlling financial risks as the centerpiece.

Guo, three days on the job as chairman of China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC), said the commission will work with other financial authorities this year to tighten regulations, guard against financial risks and support supply-side structural reform.

Guo's remarks, at his first press conference after being named CBRC chairman, reinforced views that as the health of China's economy continued to improve, policy makers had more room to shift their focus to reforms and financial risk control.

To contain rising financial risks, CBRC is planning multiple measures, including regulating the shadow banking sector and a differentiated lending policy to curb property speculation.

Commercial banks, trusts, fund management firms, brokerages and insurers all have asset management businesses, but because they have different regulators and are subject to different rules, there has been some chaos, Guo said.

"We are working on a joint regulation to set basic standards that every institution can follow," he said.

In addition, the commission will tighten regulation of banks' wealth management products (WMPs), CBRC vice chairman Cao Yu said at the press conference.

China's fast-expanding wealth management industry is considered a source of financial risk, as off-balance-sheet WMPs channel deposits into risky investments without enough regulation.

According to Cao, the volume of WMPs totaled 30 trillion yuan (4.35 trillion U.S. dollars) as of the end of 2016.

Guo said CBRC will also pay close attention to property bubbles as 45 percent of the country's new loans went to mortgages last year.

Although the overall leverage level for the country's households was not high, its rapid increase in past years is worth monitoring, Guo said.

The country will continue to implement a differentiated housing loan policy, restricting lending used for property speculation while extending loans to support housing inventory reduction in smaller cities, said CBRC vice chairman Wang Zhaoxing.

Wang said the commission will help ensure stable and healthy development of the property market, preventing property bubbles and large market fluctuations.

CBRC will also focus on the handling of loss-making "zombie companies," exploring ways to tackle their debt problems in excess capacity cutting, Guo said.

According to Guo, more than 430 billion yuan in debt-to-equity swap deals had been signed as of early February.

Thursday's conference came after the country's securities and insurance regulators vowed to act hard against irregular market operations to rein in financial risks.

At the Central Economic Work Conference in December, the central leadership pledged to make a priority of preventing financial risks, saying that curbing asset bubbles would be more important in 2017.

In a further sign of the focus on risk prevention, China's central bank vowed to maintain a prudent and neutral monetary policy this year, after keeping prudent monetary policy for six consecutive years.

Guo, former governor of eastern Shandong Province, has considerable economic sector work experience. He used to work as chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission and chairman of China Construction Bank, one of the nation's big four state-owned lenders.
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