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SOEs undergo new set of reforms

Updated: 2014-02-21 07:18
By Shi Jing in Shanghai ( China Daily)

A new round of shareholding reform is happening among State-owned enterprises at various levels nationwide.

Shanghai-based Dazhong Insurance Co Ltd recently obtained approval from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission for a change in its equity ownership.

The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the Shanghai Municipal Government will transfer 39 percentage points of its stake in the insurer to the United States-based Starr International Co Inc.

The transaction will give Starr, which previously held a 20 percent stake in Dazhong, a majority 59 percent shareholding.

The transaction also will remake Dazhong from a State-owned financial company to a foreign-invested one, the first of its kind in Shanghai.

Zhuhai, in the southern province of Guangdong, is also undertaking reform of its local SOEs.

Zhuhai Gree Group Corp, wholly owned by the Zhuhai State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, will transfer its asset stake in Gree Real Estate Co Ltd to a newly established company. It will then sell an equity stake of less than 49 percent through a public tender to strategic investors.

The transaction was announced by Gree Electric Appliances Inc, a listed company that's the world's largest air conditioner manufacturer.

Encouraged by the move announced on Wednesday by China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) to open up to 30 percent of its retail business sector to private investment, petroleum and petrochemical stocks rallied on Thursday, even as the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.18 percent to 2,138.78 points. At least 10 stocks in this category rose by the daily limit of 10 percent.

"In our view, we may finally see meaningful progress in allowing private investment in railways, municipal services, finance, energy, telecommunications, education and health," said Jian Chang, chief China economist at Barclays.

Chang said the current wave of SOE reform has started with quality companies and quality assets.

"Local governments, facing rising financing costs, increased regulation of the shadow banking business, pressures to roll over debt and the need to cut overcapacity, will be active in seeking opportunities to restructure local SOEs," she said.

"The reform of SOEs is a huge project. It can be understood that it will be carried out at a slower pace," said Yang Weixiao, a senior analyst specializing in macroeconomics and fixed income with Lianxun Securities Co Ltd in Beijing.