(Adds details, comments)
By Michelle Chen
HONG KONG Aug 12 The risk related to the
exposure of Hong Kong banks to mainland China is controllable,
the chief executive of the city's central bank said on Tuesday,
playing down concerns the territory's ties with the mainland is
making its financial system vulnerable.
The growing exposure of Hong Kong banks to the mainland in
recent years has raised questions about their ability to handle
credit risks against the backdrop of a slowing Chinese economy.
Rating agencies and supranational bodies such as the
International Monetary Fund have openly voiced concern.
Long praised by investors for their sound risk management,
Hong Kong's mid-sized banks are increasingly becoming more
exposed to any blow-up in default risk as they hunt for new
opportunities in the mainland amid sluggish growth at home.
"It's not that we don't worry about the risk, but that we
think the risk is controllable," Norman Chan, chief executive of
the Hong Kong Monetary Authority told reporters.
The exposure of Hong Kong banks' mainland-related lending
amounted to HK$2.867 trillion by the end of March 2014, up 10.8
percent from the end of 2013. It constituted a fifth of their
total assets, compared with around 5 percent in 2007.
Among these loans, 14 percent was trade finance which the
regulator believes has good liquidity and lower risk, 52 percent
was for use in mainland China and the rest 34 percent was for
use outside of the mainland, the HKMA said on Tuesday.
Chan said the trend for Chinese companies to expand outside
of China will continue for a long time and thus there will be
buoyant financing needs from these companies.
"For the next five years, Hong Kong will continue to
leverage on its relationship with China while facing the world
to develop business," Chan said.
Under an extreme scenario presented by the IMF in May, if
the default rate in the mainland banking system's interbank
obligations hits 80 percent, the losses would wipe out all the
capital in the city's banking system.
System-wide, non-performing loans as a percentage of their
total loan book remain below 1 percent so far.
The buoyant business opportunities offered by the mainland
market was in sharp contrast to the slowing business in Hong
Chan said the overall loan market growth in Hong Kong is
slowing down and feedback from bankers showed that the growth
rate in the second half of the year was expected to decline,
compared with the first half.
(Reporting by Michelle Chen; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)