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Trust Failures in China – The First Wave

Summary: Chinese Trusts currently have 11.7 trillion yuan ($1.9 trillion) in funds outstanding for investment. These Trust assets make up approximately one-quarter of all Shadow Banking funds in China. As China’s economy slows, there is concern that Trusts – and by extension Shadow Banking in general – will undergo a wave of defaults. Using a list provided by the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing, we have analyzed a list of 31 failed Trusts to see what common themes they provide and what they suggest for the future of the industry. The principal conclusion is there is a surprisingly lack of government support for these failed Trust investments. In only four cases did the Trusts, most of which are government owned, provide capital. The majority of the failed trusts were simply liquidated. This suggests the implicit obligation by the Trusts to support their products may not be in force.

China’s Hidden Leverage

eijing’s desire to pump up the Chinese economy is leading it into dangerous territory.
Although China has piled on debt, the country has been relatively cautious about one of the big areas that led to the U.S. financial crisis: leverage. It was the slicing and dicing of mortgages into digestible bite­sized chunks called derivatives that was a key contributor to the U.S. financial meltdown in 2007. Once they unwound, they threatened the banking system itself. Until recently, China has avoided complicated derivatives and other forms of leverage. However, desperate to keep the economy from slumping, the Chinese reluctance to wander down the leverage path seems to have faded.

China’s Fire Sale of the Century

A decade ago, when China was struggling to clean up its banking system, regulators pulled a rabbit out of a hat. They set up a series of “bad banks” – called Asset Management Companies (AMC) – and took Rmb 1.4tn ($125bn) of debt off the hands of the four State Banks in Beijing. It was a big success, leading to the listing of the “Big Four” banks in Hong Kong and a healthier financial system. Now, they’re trying to pull the same trick again – this time across the country.

Can China Bail Itself Out?

Chinese economists are quick to point out that the country has plenty of money to pay off its debts and could easily avert a financial collapse. The government, they say, could function as lender of last resort. How does one confirm whether there are sufficient resources in China to provide adequate capital for a massive collapse in economic activity, including a popping of China’s property bubble?