AFP: Bad-loan concerns at China’s big banks eased in 2016 despite flat earnings growth, the companies said this week, but analysts warn asset-quality problems in the world’s second-largest economy could worsen next year.
Bank of China, the country’s main foreign exchange bank, said yesterday its non-performing loans (NPL) came in at 1.46 percent of total lending, up only slightly from 1.43 percent a year earlier.
“Stepping up efforts to clear out and eliminate NPLs, we made substantial progress in a number of key projects, eliminating more NPLs than ever before,” Bank of China chairman Tian Guoli said in an earnings statement filed with the Hong Kong stock exchange, where it lists shares.
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the world’s biggest lender in terms of total assets, said late Thursday its NPL ratio rose to 1.62 percent by the end of 2016, up from 1.50 percent but marking a much slower rate of increase than previously.
ICBC chairman Yi Huiman called the results “better than expected” in light of global economic uncertainties and slowing growth in China. China’s economy, a vital engine of global growth, expanded 6.7 percent for all of last year, the slowest rate in a quarter of a century. But a slight uptick in the last three months of 2016 provided signs of stabilisation.
The country’s second biggest lender, China Construction Bank, said its NPL ratio decreased slightly to 1.52 percent of all loans while Agricultural Bank of China’s edged down to 2.37 percent. The improving asset quality reflected the stabilising economy, Larry Hu, head of China economics at Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg News.