The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

China’s banks, running hard to stand still

wei-gu.jpg-- Wei Gu is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own --

Chinese banks are like enthusiastic runners on an accelerating treadmill. The weakening economy means poor lending decisions are threatening to catch up with them, but the banks are sprinting ahead by expanding their loan books ever faster. They cannot keep this up for ever.

For now things still look fine. China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) this week claimed that Chinese banks were managing credit risk sagely, pointing to record low non-performing loan ratios. Given the massive increase in the number of loans outstanding -- up 24 percent since the start of the year -- it's not surprising that the proportion of them that are non-performing at large commercial banks, which accounts for 60 percent of the lending, has declined from 2.4 percent to 1.8 percent in the past six months.

Chinese banks appear to be focusing their lending on regions which have suffered the most in the crisis. The five regions that have shown the largest increase in new loans are the ones that were hit hardest by the downturn, namely coastal cities such as Guangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shandong, plus Beijing. These are also the regions that have experienced among the slowest growth this year. This suggests that loan growth is being driven by official policy rather than the product of bankers seeking the most attractive investment opportunities.

Chinese banks had double-digit NPL ratios before Beijing cleaned them up in preparation for their listing on foreign exchanges. Foreign banks with risk management expertise were brought in, and offered cheap stakes in Chinese institutions to encourage them to share their knowledge. This led to an improvement in lending standards as Chinese banks installed expensive computer databases and formed central credit offices.

from Commentaries:

Geithner of Oz

Earlier today I wrote that Sheila Bair is one of the few financial regulators who gets it. And by getting it, I mean not sucking up to the banks and the big money interests on Wall Street. You know, the guys (and most of them are guys), who got us into this financial mess. Tim Geithner, on the other hand, is a regulator who just doesn't get it.

It's not that the Treasury secretary isn't smart--he is. And it's not that he's not up to job--he is. It's that Geithner is too much of a politician and his views have been molded by people who work on Wall Street.

from The Great Debate:

How the bailout feeds bloated banker pay

jamessaft1-- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Rising pay in the finance sector in the wake of the global financial crisis is no surprise and is driven partly by the government's bailout itself and the underwriting of banks that are too big to fail.

News that some financial firms benefitting from government largesse actually increased the share of revenue they pay their employees sparked a lot of outrage but more heat than light.

Memo to banks – it’s not all about the money

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peter-dixon- Peter Dixon is a guest columnist, the views expressed are his own. He is global financial economist at Commerzbank -

In the course of this week, we have received a mixed bag of first half results from all the big UK banks. On balance, earnings were slightly ahead of expectations, even for those banks which still registered big losses.

from Commentaries:

Killing two birds with a partial IPO

SPORTS YACHTINGBanks and insurers are looking for ways to bolster their capital, while having the flexibility to strike if there are acquisitions to be had on the cheap. To achieve these twin goals, Spain's Santander and now British insurer Aviva intend to float minority stakes in subsidiaries.

Aviva's chief executive Andrew Moss, who cut the insurer's dividend with its first-half result on Thursday, argued that it must be ready to take advantage of acquisition opportunities. Moss plans to float 25-30 percent of Delta Lloyd so that Aviva's 92 percent owned Dutch insurance unit can take part in the restructuring of the Benelux insurance market.

Taxpayer loses in bank bail-out

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mcdowall- Bob McDowall is research director, Europe, at TowerGroup, a research and advisory services firm focused exclusively on the global financial services industry. The opinions expressed are his own. -

The banking results being published this week are inseparable from the catastrophic financial events of the last two years. It is time to glance back to where we have been and determine where we are now.

Banks get mixed reviews from institutional shareholders

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Brendan Woods- Brendan Wood is Chairman of Brendan Wood International, a global intelligence advisory firm. Recently, BWI published the World’s TopGun CEOs as ranked by 2500 institutional investors, which provides insight into the executives in whom shareholders feel the greatest confidence. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Brendan Wood International tracks the competitive position of investment bankers in global and regional markets. It also compiles the confidence rankings of hundreds of global shareholders in corporate investments, including those in the world’s leading banks. As of mid-2009, the Brendan Wood Investor Panel found a mixture of sharp criticism, but also some occasional strong praise for these “newly refurbished” financial behemoths.

The end of free banking

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david Kuo-David Kuo is director at the Motley Fool. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Banks insist on the right to charge customers who go overdrawn on their current accounts. They also say they have a right to set the amount charged.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT), on the other hand, claims that the fees banks levy on customers who exceed agreed overdraft limits are unfair. This is according to their interpretation of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations.

Big Finance reverting to bad old ways

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paul-taylor– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

They’re at it again. No sooner has the financial system begun to stabilise than Big Finance is reverting to its old ways — aggressive hiring, remuneration on steroids, wriggling out of regulation or threatening to decamp to evade tougher supervision.

Fears for bank rally overdone

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REUTERS — Margaret Doyle is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own –

Three months is a long time in the markets, and particularly for banks. Alongside the rally in bank shares, investors have also bid up bank bonds, especially so-called tier 1 bonds which rank just above the equity in the list of creditors.

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