China central bank says lending small firms jumps 21 percent in January-May

FILE PHOTO: People walk past the headquarters of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank, as two paramilitary police officials patrol around it in Beijing, China November 20, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s central bank said on Monday that more loans have been extended to small firms in the first five months of 2019, heeding Beijing’s call to support the economy.

The number of outstanding loans to small and micro enterprises rose to 10.3 trillion yuan ($1.50 trillion) at the end of May, up by 21% year on year, said Zou Lan, deputy head of the People’s Bank of China’s financial markets department.

The country’s top five lenders have boosted lending to small business by 23.7% during the five-month period, according to Zou. The annual target is 30%.

The non-performing loan ratio for lending to small enterprises across industry was 5.9%, according to Zou. Yi Gang, the central bank governor, said in March that the non-performing ratio of such loans was 6.2% in 2018.

The average lending rate to small and micro firms by China’s top five banks stood at 4.79% as of end-May industry-wide, down from 5.44% in 2018, according to Zou.

Reporting by Cheng Leng, Ryan Woo and Beijing Monitoring Desk, editing by Louise Heavens