不良贷款上升开始影响一度风光无限的中国银行业，中国“四大行”第三季度盈利遭到进一步挤压。Profits at China’s
four-biggest banks were further squeezed in the third quarter, as
shrinking interest margins and rising bad loans took their toll on the
once high-flying sector.
The lacklustre reporting season is a sharp reversal for the banks, led
by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which in 2012 ballooned to
eclipse global peers in terms of assets. That prompted then-premier Wen
Jiabao to comment that the banks “make profits far too easily”.
Third-quarter earnings data released last week are the latest sign that
the era of easy profits is ending as China’s economy slows and interest
rates are deregulated. Net profit at Bank of China, the country's
fourth-largest lender, fell in the third quarter for the first time on
record, while profit was flat at China Construction Bank, the second
Net interest margins, the spread between the rates at which banks borrow
and lend money, are shrinking as China completes interest rate
deregulation. Alongside an interest-rate cut last month, the central
bank said that it was eliminating the cap on deposit rates. The move
followed a gradual loosening of the cap over the past two years.
The combination of a cap on deposit rates and a floor on lending rates
for years ensured fat margins for Chinese banks. Combined profits at the
big four banks rose from Rmb250bn ($39.6bn) in 2007 to Rmb738bn
($116.8bn) five years later. The loan-rate floor was eliminated in 2013.
Analysts are undecided on the extent to which banks will now begin to
raise deposit rates as they compete for customer funds.
“Interest-rate liberalisation is ushering in a new era of hand-to-hand
combat for the banking sector,” Yang Rong, analyst at China Securities,
wrote last week. “利率自由
For now, Chinese banks remain among the most profitable in the world.
Return on equity at CCB was 19.5 per cent in the first nine months of
the year, down nearly 3 percentage points from the year before but still
comfortably ahead of HSBC at 10.6 per cent.
Bad loans are also rising as the economy slows and China’s manufacturing
sector struggles with overcapacity and falling prices.
Non-performing loans rose at all four major Chinese banks, with
Agricultural Bank of China suffering the largest jump, to 2.02 per cent
of total assets at the end of September from 1.83 per cent three months
Analysts note that headline profits at Chinese banks are skewed by the
share of profits set aside as provisions against future bad loans. Less
provisioning boosts quarterly profits but makes the balance sheet less
resilient if defaults rise sharply. Some banks are now provisioning less
“Considering that the NPL growth rate reached a new all-time high of 73
per cent year-on-year, we feel [AgBank’s] policy of reducing impairments
to loans in each successive quarter this year is not conservative,”
wrote James Antos, Asia banks analyst at Mizuho Securities.
For the banking system as a whole, bad loans rose by Rmb398bn in the
year to June to Rmb1.1tn, according to the latest government figures.
The bad-loan problem is suspected to be more serious at small, unlisted
banks. The official NPL ratio at rural commercial banks was 2.03 per
cent at end-June.
Many analysts doubt the veracity of China’s official NPL figures,
suspecting that lenders conceal delinquencies by rolling over or
extending overdue loans.