China opens up its financial sector in a bid to boost foreign investment

The country is pressing on with its pledge to welcome more overseas competition in the financial sector.

The Beijing skyline is reflected on the windows of a Dolce & Gabbana shop in Beijing on November 22, 2018.  Dolce & Gabbana cancelled a long-planned fashion show in Shanghai on November 21 after an outcry over racially offensive posts on its social media accounts, a setback for the company in the world's most important luxury market. / AFP / Nicolas ASFOURI
Powered by automated translation

China opened up its financial sector to more foreign investment as the government said it will take targeted measures to cope with challenges facing the industry.

Foreign investors can take a stake or control entities including wealth management units of commercial lenders, pension fund managers and currency brokers, the central bank said in a statement on Saturday. The measures were unveiled after a high-level meeting on Friday chaired by Vice Premier Liu He, where policy makers discussed targeted steps to counter rising risks and challenges facing the $44 trillion (Dh161.5bn) industry.

China is pressing on with its pledge to welcome more overseas competition in the financial sector. The sheer size of the industry makes it attractive as winning even single-digit market shares would offer sizable profits.

Other measures announced on Saturday include allowing overseas credit ratings companies to rate all bonds listed on the exchange and inter-bank market. Foreign institutions can now be the lead underwriters in the inter-bank bond market.

China, said it will scrap foreign ownership limits of securities firms, fund firms, life insurers and futures firms in 2020 instead of 2021 and allow foreign insurers to hold more than 25 per cent stake in Chinese insurance asset management companies.

The country is also removing the entry restriction of 30 years of operating experience for foreign insurance companies. It will take further steps to make it easier for foreign institutional investors to invest in the inter-bank bond market.

Foreigners currently hold just 1.6 per cent of the nation’s banking assets and 5.8 per cent of the insurance market, according to Guo Shuqing, China’s chief banking regulator. Authorities have so far approved plans by UBS Group, Nomura Holdings and JPMorgan Chase to take majority stakes in local securities ventures. JPMorgan said last year it plans to raise its holding to 100 per cent when rules allow.

China released figures this week showing growth in the world’s second-largest economy slowed to 6.2 per cent in the second quarter, the weakest pace since at least 1992 when the country began collecting the data.

The government will carry out a combination of short-and long-term steps that will take into account both micro and macro factors to boost demand and create new growth drivers, the State Council said in a statement on Saturday. “Complicated” international and domestic issues are posing more challenges currently and for the near future, according to the statement.

Chinese trade negotiators have yet to meet with their US counterparts since President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping agreed to a tentative truce late last month in Japan. Mr Liu, who is leading trade talks for China, spoke with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer over the phone this week, but slow progress has raised concerns on how the trade tensions will play out.

Policy makers will continue to implement prudent monetary policy while adopting counter-cyclical adjustments in a timely and appropriate manner to ensure reasonable and ample liquidity, according to the State Council statement. The government will also work to resolve liquidity risks of small and medium-sized financial institutions and block contagion and expansion of risks, according to the statement.