SOEs use capital market for reform

Updated 2017-07-13 10:00:40 Global Times

Revitalizing State-owned enterprises is becoming the new momentum for economic growth and operation efficiency

An increasing number of State-owned enterprises (SOEs) are optimizing their assets through mergers. It seems that the capital market has served as a platform for these enterprises to carry out reform. Mergers are considered a good choice, however, some experts say that SOEs still need to reform their internal system and mechanisms to stimulate enterprise vitality. They forecast that the implementation of reform plans will accelerate in the third quarter as a way to welcome the upcoming 19th Communist Party of China National Congress.

Capital markets are thought to be a major platform for China's State-owned enterprise (SOE) reform, with SOEs - especially those in the electricity, coal and steel sectors - increasingly carrying out mergers and acquisitions to optimize their assets.

In the current economic situation, promoting reorganization and integration between the centrally administered SOEs is Chinese authorities' crucial move to actively embrace and lead a new normal, Shen Ying, chief accountant of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

Generally speaking, the effectiveness of the practice gradually appears over time and will soon play a bigger role, she said in response to a question about rising mergers between SOEs.

There is market speculation that central State-owned coal-based energy enterprise China Shenhua Energy Company will merge with coal-fired power generator GD Power Development Co, after the two simultaneously announced continuous trading halts in separate stock filings on July 3 due to "important asset transactions." The two companies' listed arms stopped trading of stocks starting from June 5.

On June 28, China's leading expressway constructor Huabei Expressway Co announced that its consolidation with its counterpart China Merchants Expressway Network & Technology Holdings had been approved by the SASAC.

Boom in SOE mega-mergers

So far, a total of 48 SOEs listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen bourses have suspended trading - 19 are central SOEs and 29 are administrated by local governments - due to reasons such as "important merger", "important event" and "considering important merger," the Beijing-based Economic Information Daily reported on Monday, citing statistics from information provider Wind.

Since 2016, 43 centrally administered SOEs and 63 local ones have carried out major restructuring, according to the report.

The SASAC will steadily push forward SOE mergers in sectors like coal power, heavy equipment manufacturing and steel, and will endeavor to reduce the number of centrally administered SOEs to below 100, deputy secretary-general of the SASAC Peng Huagang said during a news briefing on June 2, domestic news portal reported the same month.

Latest data from the SASAC showed on Tuesday that the number of centrally administered SOEs has been reduced to 101. In December 2016, there were 102 registered in comparison.

SOE reform is a long march that needs continuous efforts. Cutting the number of centrally administered SOEs can't be accomplished in one stroke, according to Liang Jun, a research fellow at the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences.

In the first half of 2017, centrally administered SOEs posted revenue of 12.5 trillion yuan (.8 trillion), an increase of 16.8 percent year-on-year, Shen said, noting 48 of them reported more than 10 percent growth rate in net profit.

As centrally administered SOEs aim to become bigger and stronger by taking advantage of capital markets, local SOEs are also speeding up reform, of which mergers and acquisitions have become an important part.

For example, North China's Shanxi Province released a document on June 8 encouraging the province's listed SOEs to merge and avoid homogenization competition.

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