February 1, 2018 / 5:42 AM / in a year

Huarong launches China's first bad debt exchange as soured loans hit 12-year high

BEIJING, Feb 1 (Reuters) - China Huarong Asset Management Co , one of the country’s largest state-owned distressed debt managers, launched on Thursday a Beijing-based soured asset exchange, as the authorities step up efforts to curb rising debt risk.

The new entity, dubbed Huarong Zhongguancun Distressed Asset Exchange Co, is the first institution in China that is dedicated to the trading of soured assets, Huarong said in a news release.

The move comes as Chinese lenders struggle with the rapid build-up of bad debts, which have increased for 24 consecutive quarters, making policymakers come up with unconventional measures to prevent a potential debt crisis.

The amount of non-performing loans in China’s commercial banking sector spiked to the highest in 12 years, reaching 1.67 trillion yuan ($265.5 billion) by the third-quarter last year, according to official data.

In the past three years, state-owned Huarong has bought more than 1 trillion yuan in non-performing assets, accounting for more than 50 percent of the market when it comes to buying bad loan packages from commercial banks, it said.

Huarong said it seeks to use the internet and big data tools to share information and fasten the resolutions of bad assets through the exchange.

Huarong owns a 58 percent stake in the exchange, while the remaining stake is shared by Beijing Qibu Tianxia Technology Co and State-owned Properties Investment & Management Co of Haidian District in Beijing, it said.

The exchange has a registered capital of 500 million yuan, Huarong said.

$1 = 6.2900 Chinese yuan Reporting by Shu Zhang and Ryan Woo; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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