March 1, 2019 / 4:54 AM / 6 months ago

China P2P lender Dianrong closing 60 stores, laying off 2,000 employees: source

Illustration photo of the Dianrong logo on the company's website April 13, 2017. This logo has been updated and is no longer in use. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Dianrong, one of China’s biggest peer-to-peer (P2P) lenders, is shutting down 60 of its 90 offline stores and laying off an estimated 2,000 employees, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Friday.

The shrinking of Shanghai-based Dianrong comes amid Beijing’s multi-year crackdown on risky practices and excessive leverage in the financial system that has seen a wave of P2P company collapses and triggered protests by angry investors who lost their savings.

The company was co-founded by Soul Htite, who was also behind U.S. online lender LendingClub Corp. It is backed by Singapore sovereign fund GIC Pte Ltd and Standard Chartered Private Equity.

When asked for a response to the store closures and layoffs, Dianrong said it would comment later.

P2P platforms gather funds from retail investors and loan the money to small corporate and individual borrowers, promising high returns. At its peak in 2015, the sector had about 3,500 businesses in China. The P2P industry had outstanding loans of 1.49 trillion yuan ($217.96 billion) last year, far larger than the combined sector outside China.

Dianrong’s investors also included CMIG Leasing, a unit of China’s biggest private investment conglomerate, China Minsheng Investment Group (CMIG), Tiger Global Management, Japan’s Orix Corp and CLSA, part of China’s CITIC Securities.

Reporting by Shu Zhang; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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