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POLITICAL ECONOMY
China to allow more private investment in state firms: report
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 11, 2013


China bank lending slows in October: central bank
Beijing (AFP) Nov 11, 2013 - China's bank lending slowed in October from the previous month, the central bank said on Monday, as policy makers tightened liquidity wary of rising inflation and shadow banking.

Chinese lenders granted 506.1 billion yuan ($83 billion) in new loans last month, the People's Bank of China (PBoC) said in a statement, down from 787.0 billion yuan in September.

The October new loans figure was well below the median forecast of 600 billion yuan in a poll of 13 economists by The Wall Street Journal.

Total social financing, a broader measure of credit, reached 856.4 billion yuan in October, said the statement, sharply down from 1.4 trillion yuan the previous month.

The figures came after China announced at the weekend that inflation hit an eight-month high of 3.2 percent in October, driven by rising food prices and a low comparable base in the same month last year.

Analysts said the decline in new loans was partly a seasonal change as demand usually softens towards year end.

But it was also a result of policy fine-tuning to prevent credit growth from picking up as the Chinese economy stabilises.

"We believe the government including the PBoC will tone down its pro-growth rhetoric and gradually taper its mini-stimulus started in July," Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists said in a research note.

ANZ analysts said the central bank has adopted a tightening stance since mid-October in an attempt to contain shadow banking activities, which refer to opaque non-bank forms of lending.

"In this case, the funding costs will likely remain high before the Chinese New Year," they said in a recent note.

But the Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said a significant monetary contraction looked unlikely as China's new leaders "still need a stable economic and financial environment to consolidate their power base".

-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report --

China will open its state-owned firms to greater investment by private companies, a state-run newspaper reported Monday, as media raise expectations over a top Communist Party meeting on economic reforms.

According to the China Daily, private partners will be allowed to take 10 to 15 percent stakes in state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

The move would give such companies or investors a bigger say in decision-making, it quoted officials of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) as saying.

The agency is a powerful body that oversees large SOEs collectively worth trillions of dollars, many of which enjoy monopolies in key sectors such as rail and energy.

The change appears to differ from existing partial flotations of SOEs. China's big four state-owned banks are all quoted in Hong Kong and other overseas markets, as are units of oil giants Sinopec, CNOOC and CNPC, several subsidiaries of conglomerate China Resources, telecom behemoths China Mobile and China Unicom, and scores of other entities.

But partnerships are rare, with the China Daily noting the "rare exception" of a 2003 deal that handed private industrial conglomerate Fosun Group 49 percent ownership in a joint venture with state-run China National Medicine Corp.

"All kinds of companies could join SOE restructuring," the paper quoted Bai Yingzi, director of SASAC's enterprise reform division, as saying.

The report came on the third day of a four-day gathering known as the Third Plenum at which leaders of the ruling Communist Party are expected to draw up a decade-long blueprint for the world's second largest economy.

The highly-anticipated meeting, held at a heavily-secured Beijing hotel, has been used in the past by China's leaders as a launching pad for economic reforms.

But despite much raising of expectations by state-run media, analysts say China is unlikely to embark on major reforms or privatisation of state firms, and that any reforms unveiled after the plenum will likely be limited to broad outlines rather than detailed policy changes.

The China Daily report said that "specific plans on SOE reforms are expected to be drafted after the third plenum".

In a major report in March, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said that China's progress on economic liberalisation had stalled since 2008.

Aside from opening up state-owned enterprises, other topics expected to be taken up at the four-day meeting include land and administrative reforms.

The Global Times, another state-run newspaper, noted on Monday under the headline "'Reform 2.0' to be unveiled" that urbanisation is among the items at the top of the agenda.

Greater urbanisation is likely to increase pressure for changes to China's "hukou" residency system, which links social benefits to a person's registered place of abode.

The current set-up means hundreds of millions who moved from the countryside to cities in search of work are denied equal access to state medical insurance, education and other services.

"Such treatment has limited their purchasing power and raised social tensions," the paper wrote.

.


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