PBOC governor urges China to promote equity, cut debt, eliminate ‘zombie’ companies – official media

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s central bank boss spelt out his strategy to prevent a future financial crisis, urging broadened equity funding and direct finance to reduce corporate leverage and eliminate “zombie” companies, official media reported on Saturday.

Zhou Xiaochuan, Governor of People’s Bank of China, said that the market should play a “decisive role” in allocating financial resources, but also stressed the importance of stronger regulation and Communist Party leadership in guiding financial reform, according to the Shanghai Securities News.

In warding off systemic financial risks, China should deal with “both cause and symptoms”, and be active in “both preemptive measures and reactive solutions,” Zhou wrote in an article aimed at helping the public deepen understanding of last month’s 19th Communist Party Congress report.

During the Congress, Zhou, who is widely expected to step down soon, spoke of the risks of a “Minsky moment”, referring to a sudden collapse in asset prices after long periods of growth, sparked by debt or currency pressures.

China has so far avoided a sharp slowdown in its economy, but analysts and global economic bodies such as the International Monetary Fund warn Beijing that China is over-indebted. Rating agencies estimate the overall debt burden at almost three times annual economic output.

In his article, Zhou said that China should “actively develop equity financing, and steadily increase the proportion of direct finance.”

In direct finance, borrowers borrow funds directly from the financial markets without using intermediaries, potentially reducing risks in the banking system.

The more specific measures Zhou suggested included reforming China’s equity issuance mechanisms, further developing private equity funding, promoting debt-to-equity swaps, and expanding the bond market.

Meanwhile Zhou also called for further financial deregulation, saying China will relax management of its forex market, promote yuan internationalization and broaden market access by foreign financial institutions.

But in what may been seen as balancing measure to such market-friendly steps, Zhou also stressed the importance of tougher supervision, urging regulators and local governments to crack down on illegal arbitrage, shadow banking, and “illegitimate fundraising” that disrupted market order.

(Reporting by Samuel Shen and Alexandra Harney; Editing by Eric Meijer)