December 21, 2007 / 4:59 AM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-China to limit 2008 loan growth to 15 pct -paper

(Adds analyst, banker comment)

BEIJING, Dec 21 (Reuters) - China will limit next year’s commercial bank loan growth to 15 percent and has urged banks to adhere to quarterly lending targets or risk punishment, the official Shanghai Securities News reported on Friday.

The government also urged lenders to spread new loans more evenly through 2008 and indicated they should lend out 35 percent of the full-year quota in the first quarter, 30 percent in the second, 25 percent in the third and 10 percent in the fourth, the newspaper said, citing unnamed banking sources.

Banks typically lend heavily in the first three months.

Those that lend more excessively than told may face administrative penalties, be issued with central bank bills at below-market interest rates or be ordered to set aside more deposits at the central bank as reserves, the newspaper said.

China has already ordered banks in recent months to reduce their outstanding loans and stay within their loan quotas set at the start of 2007, as it seeks to curtail credit growth and prevent the economy from overheating.

China’s central bank raised interest rates on Thursday for the sixth time this year, the latest of a series of tightening steps to cap inflation in the world’s fourth-largest economy.

Chen Xiaoxian, president of mid-sized CITIC Bank (601998.SS)(0998.HK), said the intensified tightening would bite into banks’ earnings as net interest margins contribute to more than 80 percent of their revenues.

Many analysts expect Beijing to further narrow the differential between deposit and lending rates next year. The spread between one-year deposit and lending rates is currently 3.33 percentage points.

The official Financial News quoted Chen as saying that recent increases in bankss reserve requirement ratios, which have gone up to a record 14.5 percent of deposits for big banks, would be a big challenge to lenders as it gave them less cash to work with.

He also cautioned on the risks arising from a moderating economy and Beijing’s clampdown on polluters and energy guzzlers.

“We must improve our asset-liability management, scientifically match the tenors and reduce the impact of macro controls on banks’ operations,” he said.

Chen said banks should work harder to retain their strategic corporate clients.

Zhan Xiangyang, head of research at Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (601398.SS)(1398.HK), said that lenders would continue next year to cut or even withdraw loans for projects that pollute and use significant amounts of energy. (Reporting by Samuel Shen and Langi Chiang; Editing by Jason Subler)

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