UPDATE 1-China's FX regulator says foreign debt risk decreasing

Sun Mar 30, 2014 10:58pm EDT

(Recasts with SAFE comment)

BEIJING, March 31 (Reuters) - China's foreign exchange regulator said on Monday that it does not see any risk in the country's relatively high ratio of short-term foreign debt to total foreign debt, noting that the country had a large pile of foreign reserves to fall back on.

China's outstanding short-term foreign debt accounted for 78 percent of total outstanding foreign debt at the end of last year, SAFE said.

The figure is higher than the internationally accepted safety line of 25 percent.

But Guo Song, deputy director of the capital account management department at SAFE, said China has large foreign exchange reserves and the ratio between short-term debt to the reserves was only 17.7 percent.

"I cannot see any problem or risks in having a 78 percent short-term foreign debt to total foreign debt ratio, as we are focusing more on the ratio between short-term debt to forex reserves, which was at 17.7 percent at the end of 2013 " Guo told reporters.

"Overall, we can say that the foreign debt risk in China is decreasing," he added.

SAFE said that China's total outstanding foreign debt stood at $863.2 billion at the end of December 2013, of which $676.6 billion was short-tem debt.

The country's foreign exchange reserves stood at $3.82 trillion at the end of December, the largest reserves in the world.

Concern has grown in recent months over the size of China's domestic debt pile, which coupled with a slowing economy has sparked talk of the government stepping in to prop up growth.

China saw its first ever domestic bond default earlier this month, when Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science and Technology Co Ltd failed to make an interest payment on a bond it issued in 2012.. (Reporting by Aileen Wang and Jonathan Standing; Editing by Kim Coghill)