China's banks take number one spot in 2008 net profits 2009-04-14 14:25:14   Print

Special Report: Global Financial Crisis

    BEIJING, April 14 -- China's banking industry snatched the world's number one spot in 2008 with net profits growing 30.6 percent year on year to reach 583.4 billion yuan, the People's Daily reported on Monday.

    Chinese banks also lead the global banking industry in terms of return on investment, which stood at 17.1 percent last year, around 7 percentage points higher than the global average.

    In their annual earnings releases for the year 2008, Chinese listed banks reported excellent results. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) reported a profit of 111.2 billion yuan, a 35.2 percent increase year on year. China Construction Bank registered a 34 percent growth in annual profits to 92.64 billion yuan. Profits of the Bank of China and Bank of Communications grew 14.42 percent and 40.05 percent respectively to reach 64.36 billion yuan and 28.39 billion yuan.

    The extraordinary performance of Chinese banks in the midst of the worst financial crisis for decades is due to their recent drive to turn themselves into modern financial enterprises, and enhanced risk control, the paper said.

    At the end of 2008, capital adequacy ratios in 193 commercial banks, accounting for 99.5 percent of the country's total banking capital, were higher than national regulations require.

    Chinese lenders have been closely following the development of the global financial market and adjusting their asset structure and investment strategies accordingly, the paper said.

    Starting from 2008, ICBC reduced its holding of risky foreign currency bonds and set aside enough reserve funds to cover any losses from such investments.

    The lender's latest earnings report showed that it had held 1.195 billion dollars of U.S. subprime mortgage-backed bonds at the end of 2008. It had had 599 million U.S. dollars of Alt-A mortgage-backed bonds and 55 million U.S. dollars of structured investment vehicles (SIVs). But the total value of all these securities C 1.849 billion U.S. dollars C accounted for just 0.13 percent of the bank's total assets.

    In the face of the global financial crisis and the domestic economic slowdown, Chinese banks have responded to the central government's monetary easing by increasing credit. Increased lending has, on the one hand, supported the government's efforts to expand domestic demand and spur economic growth and, on the other hand, enhanced banks' profitability.

    Since last November, bank lending has been growing rapidly. New loans in January reached a record high of 1.62 trillion yuan.

    Meanwhile, Chinese banks have also adjusted their credit portfolios, beefing up support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) as well as to farmers in rural areas where access to loans used to be limited.

    China Construction Bank (CCB) has so far set up 78 SME centers nationwide to streamline loan procedures for SMEs.

    "With these centers, SMEs know where to go for a loan and the bank's client managers also actively seek out SME clients, which they largely ignored previously. We are aiming to cut procedures for a SME loan to 5.7 days from the current 10.9 days," said Zhu Dabin, director of one of CCB's SME centers.

    Last year, Chinese banks' outstanding loans to small enterprises rose 15 percent. Chinese banks' steady performance amid the economic downturn at home and abroad is due to the country's steady financial reforms in recent years, the paper said.

    Six years ago, the country's state-owned commercial banks were regarded by foreign media as "technical bankrupt" and a "time-bomb for the Chinese economy". But these same banks have grown into internationally recognized commercial lenders after carrying out shareholding reforms, introducing strategic investors and public listings. Driven by the reform of the big banks, China's other banks have also made great headway in restructuring and risk control. The whole banking industry has undergone fundamental changes.

    The ratio of non-performing loans in major commercial banks stood at just 6 percent in September 2008 compared with 23.6 percent at the end of 2002.

    The Chinese banking industry has never been in a better state, the paper said. The healthy development of the banking sector will not only tide it over the global financial crisis but also help lay a solid foundation for the steady, rapid growth of the country's economy.


Editor: Xiong Tong
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