Banks go public to replenish capital for expansion, tightened regulation

Updated 2017-08-13 11:00:37 China Daily

Chinese small and medium-sized banks have stepped up their pace in going public to meet growing capital demand from rapid business expansion and tightened regulation.

As of this week, there were 12 banks waiting for IPO approval from the country's securities regulator, the second group to enter the stock market after entry was reopened for banks more than a year ago. Nine were city banks, including Bank of Lanzhou and Bank of Changsha, while three were rural commercial banks.

The banks saw varied performance. Six posted double-digits net profit growth in 2016 despite a lackluster banking sector, while Bank of Chengdu reported a year-on-year decline of 8.48 percent.

But the lenders all face the same situation: limited financing sources.

Unlike bigger, more renowned peers with abundant depositors, small and medium-sized banks, although developing rapidly, often face difficulties in meeting regulatory requirements in capital adequacy, which is a precondition for business expansion. Bank of Xi'an improved its total assets by 3.78 percent from a year ago in 2016, but its capital adequacy ratio dropped 1.2 percent.

Chinese financial regulators have toughened up supervision to defuse accumulated risks in past months, resulting in higher standards on capital.

The IPOs will allow banks to secure more financing channels, including private placement and preferred stocks to replenish capital, analysts said. The Economic Information Daily estimated the total capital raised by them will range from 23.95 billion yuan (around 3.6 billion U.S. dollars) to 61.19 billion yuan.

"Going public is positive for them. It will help improve corporate governance, standardize information disclosure and generate publicity nationwide," said Zeng Gang, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

As new shares usually see price jumps for days, the banks will also enjoy an increase in assets after listing.

However, analysts warned of obstacles in their drive to the capital market, such as bad loans.

More than half of the 12 banks had a higher non-performing loan (NPL) ratio in 2016. Bank of Chengdu and Qingdao Rural Commercial Bank saw their NPL ratios rise to 2.21 percent and 2.01 percent, respectively, much higher than the 1.74 percent in the whole sector.

Besides low asset quality, the banks' widely dispersed ownership structures and concentrated business will also pose challenges.

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