Category Archives: Big 4 Banks

China Bank Rally Takes A Breather

After a series of moves and reviews, the big 5 Chinese banks blasted upwards in February, outpacing the rocketing Hang Seng.  Over the past couple of days, however, they’ve retrenched.   If Morgan Stanley and Short trading interest are to be believed, this is a temporary reversal.

The banks include:

Name Acronym HK symbol
Industrial & Commercial Bank of China ICBC 1398
China Construction Bank CCB 939
Agricultural Bank of China ABC 1288
Bank of China BOC 3988
Bank of Communications BOCOM 3328

Despite rising Non performing loans, shrinking net interest margins and capital requirements, these banks have surpassed the rising Hang Seng thanks to interest rate rises, increased lending, China stimulus and PPI rises.

big-banks-rally-feb-2017

Timeline of positive factors:

1/24/2017 – Interest rates raised on medium term rates on loans.

2/03/2017 – Interest rates raised on short-term debt, reportedly in the interests of liquidity due to perceived resulting from the Chinese New Year.

2/14/2017 – Morgan Stanley published a bullish report on China Banks. Banks.

2/15/2017 – Bloomberg reported that options trading reacted positively to the bullish stance of Morgan Stanley on the big 4 banks, (all of banks listed above excluding BOCOM, which isn’t included in the  big 4).

None of these banks have reported annual earnings.  While earnings seasons has just about ended in the US, annual earnings reports for Hong Kong listed stocks are trickling in.  Regardless of the annual earnings, they won’t reflect the February 2017 change in interest rates and producer price inflation which Morgan Stanley reports.

Given the significant decline in short-term selling ratios for all but BOC, 3988 HK, the recent drop could signify a temporary drop versus a long-term decline.  At least for the short-term.

 

 

 

 

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Index Changes HSI and HSCEI: In with the New, Out with the Old

Old Timers Li & Fung, 494 HK and Tsingtao Brewery, 168 HK  will be booted out of Hong Kong Indexes due to poor performance and or international dealings.  They’ll be replaced by home-grown Geely, 175 HK,  and infant IPO Postal Savings Bank, 1658 HK, favoring made in China and SOE investments, respectively.  The stock performance and market caps give a clue to the underlying reason but don’t explain it all.

hong-kong-index-changes

Data Source: Bloomberg

The mature, 50-member Hang Seng Index, HSI, loses Li & Fung, a member since 2000, as its profits and core earnings continue to drop.  It’s last reported interim statement showed a gross revenue drop of 6.4% and a core profit drop of 14.2%.  Li and Fung, a Wal-Mart and Marks and Spencer supplier, most recently reported getting 62% of its sales coming from the US.  It’s being replaced by Made In China and Sold in China: Geely Auto.  As Li and Fung’s stock has dropped, Geely has shot upwards, helping it achieve a market cap 3 times the size of veteran Li and Fung.  Geely’s sales climbed 50% in 2016, fueled by a 50% drop in the sales tax on cars with less than 1.6 liter engines.  While Geely’s annual sales climbed 50%, it reported on January 6, 2017 a preliminary profit climb of over 100%.

geely-annual-w

Geely has apparently kept the pedal to the metal with January year on year sales reported at an   annual increase of 71% although down 5.15% from December.  This increase is astounding, with the Lunar New Year starting in 2017 on Jan. 28 vs. 2016 in Feb. and Ford and GM both reporting yoy China drops of 24% and 32%, respectively, from HK filings.

geely-jan

As Home town Geely replaces exporter Li and Fung; Tsingtao Brewery, the first China incorporated  H-listed stock in history, is being removed from the younger Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, HSCEI; to be replaced by recent IPO Postal Savings Bank.  Tsingtao has faced declining sales; its last reported revenue drop of 5.3%.  However, perhaps more importantly, it has also been hit by rumors that Asahi Breweries of Japan is hoping to dump its 19.99% ownership interest. (The majority-holder of Tsingtao is Qingdao SASAC).  An index removal could reflect the  dissatisfaction of the effects of outside interests on Chinese companies.

The possible rationale for replacing Tsingtao  with Postal Savings Bank is more difficult  to explain than Geely replacing Li and Fung.  While Geely has been climbing, Postal Savings Bank has actually declined in price since its September IPO.  It’s first half report for 2016 was uninspiring, with loans increasing but net interest margin dropping significantly and a low core ratio.  It’s non-performing loan ratio of .78 is difficult to believe as world behemoth China’s Industrial and Commercial Bank,  1398 HK, ICBC, reported a npl ratio of 1.55 for the first ½ of 2016.  In the first half, ICBC had a capital adequacy ratio of 13.11 vs.  Postal Savings Bank’s first half CAR of 10.04% .

Postal Savings Bank had a less than spectacular IPO, heavily dependent upon its mostly majority state-owned cornerstone investors, which purchased over 75% of the offering.

Postal Cornerstone.PNG

 

 

Source: HK filings

*Acquisition Loans “may be” financed by SOE China Banks: China Construction Bank, 939 hk, Bank of Communications, 3328 hk, and Agricultural Bank of China, 1288 HK.
**One of 4 asset management firms set up in the 1990’s to deal with bad debt, related to the big 4 banks.  China Great Wall was linked with Agricultural Bank of China.

Rather than a strictly index-related move, the inclusion of Postal Bank could be more to the aid of those cornerstone investors,  which would face an expiration of their 6-month lock-up period close to the time of the index inclusion.  Whether this will give Postal the boost it needs remains to be seen.

 

 

 

 

 

ICBC of China Issues 117 Million Credit Cards in 1st Half, Why It Matters

icbc stock

As a tantalizing pre-cursor to 1st half earnings, ICBC HK 1398, stated that it issued over 117 million credit cards with 1st half consumption of 1.4 trillion yuan, ($211.25 Billion). However you look at it, that’s a lot of plastic.  However, in relative terms, it’s not quite as stunning.  Particularly for consumption dollars, the increase is substantial, compared to the 1st half 2015 filing:

ICBC credit cards

Why it matters. In terms of market cap, ICBC is the second largest bank in the world after Wells Fargo Bank.  In China, it’s the largest.  Its credit card issuance and consumption therefore give a view of credit card growth in China, which has historically had a higher dependence on debit cards. It’s also a window to consumer credit use in China and the growth of an important revenue source for ICBC.

For ICBC, and the majority of banks in China, debit card issuance has far exceeded credit card issuance.  Based on the last 2 annual reports, ICBC’s credit cards as a % of total cards has inched up , although growing more than debit card issuance.

icbc cards up

Based on the annual report, confirmed by the 1st half 2016 results, Chinese consumers who do have credit cards are getting more comfortable buying on credit.  This should be good news for Chinese banks, since they’ve been squeezed by lower net interest income after multiple interest reductions by the Central bank.

interest rate changes

Source: Reuters

Add to that a market slowdown and increasing, NPL’S, and banks are grasping for sources of income other than net interest.  ICBC , despite its size and  international holdings, needs that extra income.  The last quarter showed minimal growth in net profit, with commission and fee income representing a consecutively larger part of revenue.

icbc q1 2016

Source: HK filing

While quarterly filings don’t break out bank charges, the last annual showed them to be about 5.6% of gross revenue.

icbc annual other income

Comparing this to the increase in annual card issuance, the 12.5% increase in annual bank cards issued brought about a 7.3% increase in total revenue.  While the latest statement mentioned only credit cards, the increase bodes well for an increase in a significant portion of income.  With a trailing p/e of 5 and below, it needs all the help it can get.  Judging by historical filing, we should see if this assumption holds around 8/27 of this month.

 

 

 

 

 

Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp Rise in Tandem

Despite disappointing retail sales numbers released over the weekend, the Hang Seng and China Comp managed to rise, following a weekly decline for both.

SH HK UP

This could be blamed either on a short-term correction after falls over 10% from recent highs, or the usual stimulus hopes after weakening retail and credit numbers.

The HSI had positive moves in the majority of sectors.  For the HSCEI, however, the 10 decliners were dominated by banks.

hscei banks

Source: AA stocks

 

While China banks are under pressure with net interest income declining and, npl’s growing, the latest move could be due to rumors that Chinese regulators will be examining non-performing loan data.  Despite economic weakness in China, NPL’S have stayed relatively low.  While NPL’S have grown, criticism has come from outside regarding the drop in allowances to NPLS, now below the 150% guideline for 2 of the major 4 banks. From the last quarterly reports for China’s big-4 SOE banks:

banks npl

Whatever the reason for the rise in stock values, the quick rise in one company, based on recent and historical performance, is unwarranted.  Belle International, hk 1880, has risen over 14% since May 11.

BelleT

Belle is a footwear and sportswear apparel retailer with 20,375 stores in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao.  Belle has felt the brunt of the Chinese economy slowdown with same store sales declining, particularly in their bigger footwear segment, where they have the most outlets and get the biggest net profit.

Belle chart

Source Data: HKEX filings

While they have yet to issue their annual report, the decline in same store sales has seriously hit the bottom line as a profit warning was issued on 3/29/2016,  stating the company expected a decline in annual net profit of 35% to 45%.  Without giving specific details, the company claimed it was due to declining same store sales, declining gross profit margins and goodwill impairment. This would represent a major decline in performance based on both the last semi-annual report and the last annual.

belle data

Source Data: HKEX filings

As shown above, the company is confronting 2 problems.  Thanks to declining sales in its original footwear core, it has been shifting more into sportswear apparel, which has continued to see same store increases although these are shrinking.  Unfortunately, the margins in sportswear apparel, where they sell mostly licensed goods versus proprietary goods as in footwear, are much lower than footwear.

Based on these trends and the recent profit warning, it is doubtful the company will meet the current projections for about a 20% decline in eps. The company is expecting to publish its annual report by the end of this month.

 

 

Shanghai Composite and Hang Seng Falter

SH HK UP

Major Chinese indexes faltered pending 1st quarter earnings reports, Wednesday’s data on March industrial profits and  April consumer sentiment and mixed signals from regulators.

Commodity Bubble:

Commodity trading raised alarm bells with both Deutshe Bank and Morgan Stanley noting the spike in volume.  Per Bloomberg:

The recent spike in speculative trading in commodities in China has stunned global markets, according to Morgan Stanley, which cited a jump in local activity for steel, iron ore and cotton as well as eggs and garlic.

“Now China’s speculators engage commodities,” analysts including Tom Price and Joel Crane said in an e-mailed note on Monday. “China’s latest speculative spike has stunned global markets.”

To put it in perspective, also per Bloomberg:

“The fact that trading volume for steel rebar contracts was at 223 million tons of rebar last Thursday, more than China’s full-year production of steel rebar, raised concerns about the repeat of boom-bust scenario seen last year in China’s equity market,” analysts at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. wrote in a note on Monday.”

Finally, a picture courtesy Zerohedge:

Trading Volumes Commodities

Banks and Property Agencies Under Pressure to Slow Shanghai Skyrocketing Prices

Per Bloomberg,

China’s banking regulator in Shanghai is halting business between commercial banks and six real estate agencies for a month, the latest in a string of measures to contain risks in the housing market.

The suspension, which takes effect Monday, covers agencies including the local arms of Beijing Homelink Real Estate Brokerage Co., Pacific Rehouse Co. and Shanghai Hanyu Property Brokerage Co., according to a statement by the China Banking Regulatory Commission’s Shanghai office on the city’s official Weibo microblog account.

In the same account, branches for two of China’s largest lenders, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China,  1398 hk, and Bank of China, 3988  hk, along with HSBC are suspended from issuing mortgages for the next two months.  The reasoning given eerily echoes the subprime meltdown as:

China’s central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan last month told banks to better assess customer creditworthiness in mortgage lending to reduce risks, adding that unauthorized loans by real estate agents increased the chances of bad debts.

While the overall management on residential mortgage loans is “relatively prudent,” some real estate agents advanced the transactions by providing down-payment loans and bridge loans, the statement said. Some commercial banks also violated rules with their practices on mortgage loans, according to the statement.

China Eastern Stalls Again

Despite the news that CTRIP, CTRP NYEX, is stepping up to invest about 3Billion rmb’s into China Eastern, 670 hk, the stock swooned ovef 5% today while China Southern, 1055 HK, dropped 1.2%, and Air China, 753, hk  dropped 2.5%.  The air pocket could be due partly to the following:

  • The 3Billion rmb is just a small portion of the 15 Billion China Eastern announced it would raise with a new, private A-share offering.   Approved by the CSRC in January of 2016 with this investment being the first actual investment since then. The bulk of the money is needed to buy 23 new planes.
  • China Eastern faced headwinds when it tried to buyback  3.3 Billion yuan notes due March 2017, 4.8%, guaranteed.  After offering to buy via a dutch Auction with a minimum price under par, the company got no quorum and amended the offer to par + accrued interest and extended the offer to 4/27/2016.  (The bonds were issued in March, 2014, to professional investors).
  • The company has been issuing super-short term notes to finance working capital while it waits for  the proposed shares to be bought to finance its expansion. In April alone it issues 4 separate tranches totalling 12 billion rmb.  Since the beginning of 2016, it has issued 19.5 Billion in super short term notes, generally refinancing existing debt.

 

8 Reasons Why China Swapping Loans for Equity is Bad

Reuters reports that China banks will be allowed to swap bad debt for equity in troubled companies.

Equity for NPL’s starkly conflicts with reform promises and will damage China’s economy.

1. Over supply in construction, steel, cement and aluminum will continue in conflict with State promises to halt.

2. Needed bankruptcies will be avoided, need for debt restructure eliminated.

3. Personnel lay-offs will be deferred for sake of employment numbers, not economics.

4. Production slowdowns and halts will be unnecessary, in conflict with declining demand and prices.

5. Declines in prices for major products: steel, cement, aluminum and coal, will accelerate.

6. Capital expenditures in unprofitable assets will continue.

7. Banks will have more money to lend, due to less restrictions, but won’t recognize shit “assets”.

8. Opaque reporting will be increased. Banks stock prices, already with the lowest international p/e ratios on trailing and projected eps, will continue to be low as investors are doubtful of their true health.

China Big4 Banks Surge on Rumoured Support

The Big 4 SOE banks of the PRC surged in Shanghai on reports of government intervention to prop up prices before this weekend’s annual policy meeting.  While the Shanghai Composite rose a mere .5%, the Shanghai 50, dominated by financials and energy,  increased by 3.36%.  The outsize volume for the Big 4 Banks reinforces the support comments made by anonymous sources.

Big 4 Volume.PNG

The gains in Shanghai, from over 2% to over 4%, were more robust than those in Hong Kong, none of which exceeded 2%. Still, with the bearish movements in Shanghai and Hong Kong, the stocks are generally well below the start of the year with the exception of Agricultural Bank of China, on the Shanghai exchange.

banks big 4 upd

Despite today’s changes and the rally from the 52-week lows, these shares have tumbled hard from their 52-week highs.  These 4 banks are among the top 10 in the world in terms of assets.  Even after today’s Shanghai shoot, the p/e’s of a couple of their peers in the top 10, BNP Paribas, p/e of 8.86; JP Morgan Chase, p/e 9.9 demonstrate the continued market skepticism toward these Banks and a China stimulus save.

Big 4 Banks pe

The 3rd quarter’s growth in NPL’s and flat to negative growth in net earnings reinforce this skepticism.

big 4 banks npls and net income.PNG

None of these banks have yet to report annual earnings.  Based on history, the banks will be reporting in late April.

Bank                                                  Last Annual Release

Agricultural Bank of China                           4/28/2015

China Construction Bank                              4/29/2015

Bank of China                                                    4/30/2015

Industrial & Commercial Bank                    5/5/2015