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Bad debts just get bigger

The best guess as to the eventual size of Chinese banks’ bad debts is that they will be many times larger than initial official estimates. In a desperate effort to clean up their balance sheets, banks have shifted bad debts to asset management companies. But there’s no sign that these can offload them to new money investors or engineer decent recovery rates. And there’s plenty more to come. Ministers may feel a little queasy when they get the final bill.

Jiang Jianqing

There have been a few rumblings coming from the Chinese mainland and its banks as they attempt to tick off the tasks on their things-to-do list. On the positive side, Bank of China has been awarding valuable mandates to privatize its Hong Kong operation.

Goldman Sachs and UBS Warburg seem satisfied with life, but still haven't officially raised the banners and popped the champagne in public to celebrate landing such an important prize. November however is being touted as a very good month for launching such an IPO.

On the less than positive side, the issue of non-performing loans still casts a shadow over the whole restructuring process. "What we have learned in the last few months is that the hole is a lot bigger than we first feared," says Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

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