Mar 24

China Watch Blog has learnt that Chinese banks misclassified about 20 percent of their outstanding loans to local governments, understating the risk that slowing revenue will cut borrowers’ ability to repay, Bloomberg reported, citng a person with knowledge of the matter.

The China Banking Regulatory Commission told lenders last month that they had incorrectly placed about 1.8 trillion yuan (US$286 billion) of loans to local government financing vehicles in the safest category of lending, the person said, declining to be named because the matter is private. The banks erred in calculations and underestimated risks when they decided the loans were fully covered by cash flows from the projects, the person said.

Reclassifying the debts may force banks to set aside greater loan-loss provisions and seek more collateral from regional authorities, whose revenue growth has slumped as the world’s second-biggest economy slows. The Agricultural Bank of China on Thursday unexpectedly posted its first drop in quarterly profit since its 2010 listing.

“The impact of a reclassification would not be huge for the entire industry but it can be much bigger for a few banks if the problems are concentrated in them,” said Yvonne Zhang, a Beijing-based vice president and senior analyst at Moody’s Investors Service. “In our stress tests, we assumed that between 20 percent and 33 percent of those loans will eventually turn sour without government assistance.”

Local governments in China, prohibited from directly taking out bank loans or selling bonds, have set up more than 6,000 financing companies to raise funds for projects such as stadiums, roads and bridges, the National Audit Office said in a June report.

Regulators and investors have expressed concern that if local-government loans aren’t repaid they could lead to China’s third banking bailout in less than two decades.

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Mar 24

China Watch Blog has learnt that Chinese police in the cities of Hefei, Wuhan and Chengdu have arrested more than 300 suspects for a number of contract fraud cases involving over 10 million yuan (1.59 million U.S. dollars), the Ministry of Public Security announced on Friday.

Police in the three cities busted 13 groups and over 40 companies suspected of contract fraud crimes, and closed 90 illegal sites for such crimes in the past few weeks, the China Daily reported, citing the ministry.

The actions are part a campaign that police launched at the start of March to crack down on economic crime.

Contract fraud involves intentional misrepresentation to deceive the victims into entering into contracts.

In most of the cases, the suspects persuaded the victims to become their franchised outlets or producing contractors, took the victims’ money as “equipment fees” or “training fees” and refused to repurchase the products as they previously promised.

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Mar 24

China Watch Blog has learnt that the situation surrounding China’s exports will become more complicated and severe in the coming months amid an increasing number of trade protectionist measures and slackening global demand, the China Daily reported, citing the Ministry of Commerce.

China will roll out policies regarding currency and tax rebates to bolster exports, Zhong Shan, deputy minister of commerce, said at a forum in Beijing, adding that it will be more arduous for the Chinese government to stabilize export growth.

According to the General Administration of Customs, China’s exports declined 0.5 percent over the year in January, the first fall in more than two years. During the first two months, Chinese shipments grew by merely 6.9 percent year-on-year.

The figures are far less than the previous year and they set a pessimistic tone for the whole year, Zhong said.

From January to February of 2011, China’s exports grew by 21.3 percent year-on-year.

According to Zhong, industrial competitiveness, global demand and the business environment are the decisive trends for the nation’s exports, and they are all “not favorable”.

China is losing its dominant competitiveness in labor costs as the nation pledges to raise minimum wages for workers to improve their livelihoods, Zhong said.

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Mar 24

China Watch Blog has learnt that over 200 robotics teams from across the United States, Brazil, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Jamaica and Canada converged at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on March 16-18, 2012 to battle it out at the FIRST Mega Weekend Competition for a spot at the World Championships to be held in St. Louis, MO on April 25, 2012.

The New York City Mega Weekend comprised of three distinct and unique competitions held over the course of three days including:

NYC FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) – Rebound Rumble – FRC combines sports excitement with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams are challenged to fund, design a brand, exercise teamwork, and build and program robots to perform tasks against competitors.

This year’s regional winners include team 1635 – Newtown High School from Elmhurst, NY, team 125 – Brookline High School, Boston Latin School, Catholic Memorial School and Revere High School from Boston, MA, and team 522 – Mckee Vocational High School from Staten Island, NY. More information on the FIRST Robotics Competition can be found at http://www.nycfirst.org/programs/frc.

NYC FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) – Bowled Over – FTC is designed for head-to-head competition. Teams are responsible for designing, building, and programming robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams. This year’s competition champions were teams 2753 – Team Overdrive – from NJ, team 4995 – Francis Lewis High School – from Queens, NY and team 5484 – Enderbot – from Corning, NY. More information can be found at http://www.nycfirst.org/programs/ftc.

NYC FIRST LEGO League Championship (FLL) – Food Factor – FLL introduces younger students to real-world engineering challenges by building LEGO-based robots to complete tasks on a thematic playing surface. FLL teams, guided by their imaginations, discover exciting career possibilities and learn to make positive contributions to society. Winning teams include the Brics-2-bots – RoboGbots, Ryan Lions, and the Packer Collegiate Institute – Swedish Chefs. More information can be found at http://www.nycfirst.org/programs/fll.

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