In 2014, the China Banking Regulatory Commission started approving a new batch of asset management corporations (AMCs)—also known as bad banks—to complement the four AMCs that have been in operation since 1999. AMCs help lessen the burden of bad debts on banks and other financial institutions by acquiring their non-performing loans (NPLs). The new AMCs differ from the original four in a number of ways, most notably in that they are limited to buying bad loans only from financial institutions in their province. As banks accelerate their NPL disposals, the role of these new, local AMCs will likely increase.
China’s original four AMCs have in recent years focused less on bank NPLs and increasingly on acquiring bad loans between non-financial companies. Such delinquencies arise when companies that acquire goods and services on credit later find they’re unable to pay. While Cinda and Huarong—the only two of the four that publish regular data—continue to increase their acquisitions of bank NPLs, that business is nonetheless dwarfed by the bad debts of non-financial companies. Meanwhile, Cinda and Huarong’s purchase of bank NPLs leans heavily towards major state-owned commercial banks and joint stock banks, even as city and rural commercial bank NPLs account for a rising share of total outstanding NPLs.
Source: Cinda and Huarong.
That has created a space for new, locally oriented AMCs. At the end of February 2018, there were 47 local AMCs. Some provinces had three, others only one, and a couple none at all—although more are likely to be approved. Unlike the original four AMCs, the new batch of bad banks are allowed to purchase bad loans only from financial institutions in their province. Moreover, the new AMCs don’t conform to one simple model. In fact, in many ways, they don’t resemble traditional AMCs (read more here).
Source: SAIC, local government websites, state media.
The decision to approve local AMCs was initially met with some skepticism. These new bad banks were set up with relatively thin capital levels, which threatened to circumscribe their ability to make a meaningful contribution to the financial system cleanup efforts. Nonetheless, a handful of local AMCs have disclosed data that suggest that they have managed to have a significant impact on the disposal of NPLs in their respective provinces. However, the actual value of that contribution is more complex than the numbers suggest (read more here).
Source: The AMCs and their parent companies; CBRC.