China seeks more disclosure from banks

China’s major banks have been asked to publish data on 12 key indicators, including off balance sheet assets, to enhance their transparency.

Banks with total assets of 1.6 trillion yuan ($264bn; £160bn) will need to publish the data within four months of the end of each financial year.

China said the move was in line with rules published by the Basel Committee on international banking regulation.

There have been growing concerns over rising bad debts at Chinese lenders.

The data that banks will be required to disclose also includes cross-border assets and liabilities, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said.

According to data compiled by the Bloomberg news agency, the new requirements will apply to at least 12 of the 19 publicly listed Chinese banks.

Debt concerns

Chinese banks – especially the big four state-owned lenders – played a key role in keeping the country’s growth momentum going in the years following the global financial crisis.

They lent record sums of money in an attempt to sustain China’s high growth rate.

However, there have been concerns that part of that money has gone towards unproductive investments and that banks may not be able to recover those loans.

The fear among many is that a jump in non-performing loans would not only hurt the country’s banking sector, but also have a big impact on its overall growth.

While the percentage of bad loans at China’s banks account for less 1% of total lending, some critics have claimed that banks were either rolling over such loans or even restructuring them to try and keep the reported figure low.

That has led to calls for greater scrutiny of the sector.

China’s state-owned Xinhua news agency quoted the banking regulator as saying that the latest move could help “boost the internal management of the banks and improve transparency”.