Bad Debt Makes ABC a Chinese Puzzle – Richard McGregor

From Financial Times:

China is in the middle of the last and most difficult restructuring of its large lenders: that of Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) , a behemoth with nearly half a million employees, 27,000 branches and a stack of bad loans on its books.

China has restructured four of its five state banks, cutting tens of thousands of staff, at the same time as selling stakes in each institution to foreign investors before listing them offshore.

However, the ABC presents the greatest challenge because of the size of its bad debts, the opacity of its books and its relatively high reliance on the countryside – the least creditworthy part of the Chinese economy. Just how difficult a task can be gleaned from the response of local bank officials to a crisis in branches in Jining , a small city near the imperial-era grand canal in Shandong province , in late 2004 and early 2005. [Full text]

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