Growing macroeconomic challenges coupled with a series of defaults in the property sector have raised alarms regarding a potential liquidity crisis impacting China's shadow banking industry. Analysts warn that this could amplify risks within the broader financial sector and exacerbate the already weakened Chinese economy.
State-backed Zhongrong International Trust, a major player in China's shadow banking arena, has found itself entangled in this crisis. The company recently missed payments on over 30 wealth management products. Reports indicate that liquidity issues faced by its controlling shareholder, Zhongzhi Enterprise Group, a substantial financial conglomerate, might be behind the trouble.
The turbulence surrounding Zhongrong is seen as a reverberation of the mounting cash crunch faced by property developers, such as Country Garden, as the Chinese government continues its efforts to deleverage the property sector. Shen Meng, director at Beijing-based investment firm Chanson & Co., notes that Zhongrong's business model of providing financing to distressed developers is a common practice among Chinese trust firms.
The implications of Zhongrong's crisis extend beyond its immediate impact. The collapse of Zhongrong or another significant wealth management entity could dent investor confidence in China's shadow banking system. This might lead to collateral damage for other trust firms, even those with relatively stable balance sheets.
The potential consequences of a liquidity crisis within the trust industry are far-reaching. Retail investors with exposure to Zhongrong products could see their wealth erode. Listed companies might experience reduced capital for growth and investment. Furthermore, local governments, already grappling with debt issues, could face additional obstacles in their attempts to prop up China's declining economy.
Although Zhongrong and Zhongzhi declined to comment on the matter, the crisis has prompted small protests outside Zhongrong's office in Beijing. According to Zhongrong's annual report, nearly 11% of its managed assets in 2022 were invested in real estate. The company also held significant shares in projects of defaulted developers.
This predicament follows closely on the heels of another property developer's troubles. Country Garden, once China's largest developer by sales, recently disclosed its repayment difficulties and suspended trading of its bonds on Chinese exchanges. The company issued a profit warning, projecting a net loss for the first half of 2023. It is reportedly on the verge of restructuring.
Despite Zhongrong's crisis, analysts like those at CreditSight note that the overall size of the company's assets and affected products is relatively small compared to China's larger trust industry and banking sector. However, the cumulative impact of further defaults within China's shadow banking could undermine investor and market sentiment, testing the country's near-term financial stability.
As the situation unfolds, Zhongzhi is reportedly in talks with KPMG to audit its balance sheet. The company, which manages over 1 trillion yuan, intends to restructure its debt following the review, aiming to fulfill its obligations to investors.
By fLEXI tEAM