* ICBC loans up 15 bln yuan in Jan, Feb to 165.5 bln yuan
* Big Four banks lent about 200 bln yuan in Jan, Feb
* ICBC NPL ratio at about 0.9 pct, from 1 pct last year
* Local government loans are stable
By Kelvin Soh and Kang Xize
BEIJING, March 4 (Reuters) - Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s most valuable lender, recorded loan growth of more than 10 percent in the first 2 months of this year, its president said on Sunday.
ICBC lent 165.5 billion yuan in loans in January and February, about 15 billion yuan more than the same period last year, bank president Yang Kaisheng said on the sidelines of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
“The idea that we’ve lent less in the first two months of this year is incorrect,” Yang said. “Altogether, the Big Four banks sawloans grow about 20 billion yuan in January and February.”
China’s “Big Four” banks are ICBC, China Construction Bank , Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of China.
Beijing has tightened its credit policy in the past two years, especially to the real estate sector, in a bid to engineer a so-called “soft landing” and curtail runaway property prices.
This has led to widespread unhappiness from small- and medium-sized enterprises who say they have been unable to get access to credit while state-owned enterprises such as China Mobile are flush with cash. The mobile operator sits on over 330 billion yuan in bank deposits and cash, according to its interim results announcement.
Loans to local government financing platforms, which are companies set up by the city and provincial authorities to finance projects, remain healthy with a non-performing loan ratio lower than the bank’s overall loan book, Yang said.
The bank’s NPL ratio has fallen to about 0.9 percent this year from just over 1 percent a year ago, he added.
“There are no large-scale problems with local government loans,” Yang said.
There were widespread fears in 2011 that many of loans to these local government financing platforms given out as part of Beijing 4 trillion yuan stimulus package during the global financial crisis may go sour. (Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)