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China’s new chief banking regulator announced the expansion of debt-for-equity swaps and other measures to contain financial risk on Thursday in the face of the country’s growing pile of corporate debt.
The measures were announced during the first speech from Guo Shuqing as chair of the China Banking Regulatory Commission after being named to the post on Wednesday. He had previously been head of the securities regulatory commission four years ago and has been hailed by analysts as a “reform-minded” governor of Shandong province.
China’s banks have agreed to exchange a further Rmb400bn ($58bn) this year of corporate debt for equity stakes in those companies, Mr. Guo said during his first public conference on Thursday, adding that Rmb40bn of such swaps had already been completed this year.
The program, launched in 2016, is an attempt to cut down China’s roughly $19tn pile of corporate debt.
Mr Guo batted away questions over whether he had been tapped to become head of a possible new super-regulator – composed of the insurance, securities, and banking regulatory commissions – dismissing this as “rumour”.
The proposal has been framed as a way of getting rid of regulatory gaps between the three separate commissions, such as in the regulation of shadow banking products.
Mr Guo also announced that the three financial regulatory commissions and the central bank were looking into a unified framework for regulating wealth management products — a key part of the shadow banking system.
“Given his reform-minded background, he’ll be pushing policies such as the debt-for-equity swaps, since those reforms are in line with what the Beijing apparatus want to achieve: deleveraging and mitigating risks,” said Jonas Short, head of China research at NSBO, an investment bank.
“But broad reform to the banking sector is unlikely this year, given the 19th Party Congress, when there will be many key personnel reshuffles,” added Mr. Short.
When asked about his ideal institutional form for financial regulation, Mr Guo declined to answer, saying: “I’ve only been on the job for three days, my mind is still back in Shandong. I could tell you more about rural toilet reforms than financial reform!”