March 29, 2018 / 12:58 PM / a year ago

New China financial regulator says to deepen reform, fend off risk

Guo Shuqing, China's newly appointed banking regulator, attends a news conference ahead of China's parliament in Beijing, March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Shu Zhang

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s new banking and insurance regulator said on Thursday it will deepen the reform and opening up of the banking and insurance systems and will crack down on financial risk.

In a statement, the regulator also said it would help clean up local governments’ hidden debts, crack down on shadow banking and push forward in orderly way lowering of corporate leverage ratios.

It will also support debt-to-equity swaps in a market-oriented and lawful way, it said, summarizing a meeting chaired by its head, Guo Shuqing, who is also the Communist Party chief and deputy governor of the central People’s Bank of China.

The regulator says they discussed “important documents” on strengthening the disposal and identification of non-performing banking assets, but did not give details.

China is among global economies viewed as most vulnerable to a banking crisis, according to the Bank for International Settlements. Beijing has maintained that debt risks are under control and its commitment to deleveraging will not waver.

The banking and insurance regulators were merged earlier this month as part of a broader re-organization of government departments.

The move to tighten oversight of China’s $42 trillion banking and insurance sectors comes as Beijing reins in riskier lending practices and cuts high corporate debt.

China has also cracked down on Chinese conglomerates for their aggressive acquisitions of overseas assets.

It has additionally launched a campaign to root out officials engaged in corrupt practices in the financial sector.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Zhang Min, Yawen Chen and Stella Qiu; Editing by Nick Macfie

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