Confirming that there is something fundamentally broken with China’s debt transmission mechanism and that, by implication, Chinese bad loans are soaring, two weeks after we reported that there was a bank run at Henan Yichuan Rural Commercial Bank which brought the bank to the verge of collapse, the WSJ reported that Harbin Bank, a politically-linked midsize Chinese lender based in the capital of northeast Heilongjiang province, became the latest Chinese financial institution to get a state bailout after its key private shareholders were replaced by government investors.
Total consideration for the shares involved came to almost 15 billion yuan, or around $2.1 billion, the bank said, though it described the transactions as transfers rather than stock sales, which is to be expected if the bank was being bailed out instead of actually selling a viable stake.
As has been the customary case, the bank didn’t provide any reason for the transactions in the statement, and Chinese bank regulators made no comment on the action.
And, as was the case with at least one previous bank “rescue”, Harbin Bank was connected to a former oligarch who disappeared not that long ago amid allegations of massive fraud. Indeed, as the WSJ reports, the bank is among a handful of financial businesses in China linked to once-powerful tycoon named Xiao Jianhua who in early 2017 disappeared amid a wave of prosecutions of big private investors. Businesses owned by some of those people, including Wu Xiaohui’s Anbang Insurance Group Co., have also since become government-owned.
Expect this to continue until it is so bad that we see another squirt of stimulus. Rinse and repeat.
David Llewellyn-Smith is Chief Strategist at the MB Fund and MB Super. David is the founding publisher and editor of MacroBusiness and was the founding publisher and global economy editor of The Diplomat, the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics and economics portal.
He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.