August 9, 2019 / 8:23 AM / 11 days ago

China cracking down on bank loans redirected to property sector in 32 cities

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s banking and insurance regulator has launched a nationwide bank inspection to determine if loans have been used illegally to fund property investment, to further clamp down on speculation in the country’s real estate market.

The checks will take be made at some commercial banks in 32 cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well as provincial capitals like Chengdu and Changchun, according to a notice issued by the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

The CBIRC said the checks are meant to crack down on lending that has been redirected to the property market, and the inspections are aimed at fending off real estate and financial bubbles.

Consumer loans, personal credit cards and corporate loans illegally used to purchase properties will be the key target of the checks by local CBIRC branches, according to the notice.

Local CBIRC branches will also hunt down off-balance sheet investments by banks that ended up in real estate projects, the notice said.

The CBIRC didn’t immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

Despite a cooling economy, average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities have risen for 50 straight months, the latest official data for June showed. Household debt has also risen rapidly.

With a focus on risks, China’s Politburo, a top decision-making body of the Communist Party, said in its latest meeting in late July that it will step up efforts to boost demand and support the economy, but explicitly said it would not use the property market as a form of short-term stimulus.

In July, the government moved to curb real estate investments through some trust companies by asking them not to provide new financing to real estate firms, Reuters reported.

Eyebright Trust and Citi Trust, two major trust companies involved in real estate investment, said on July 11 that they had suspended new fund-raising for real estate firms following window guidance from the CBIRC.

Reporting by Cheng Leng, Zheng Li and Ryan Woo; Editing by Kim Coghill

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