Courtesy of Mish.
Top Chinese banks are involved in Ponzi financing of investment deals, offering interest rates over 7% to depositors, to finance real estate projects gone bust and other projects whose assets are not even disclosed.
Banks label these schemes “Wealth Management Products” (WMPs) but any individuls foolish enough to invest in them are going to lose money, perhaps all of it.
Reuters explains in a special report China’s answer to subprime bets: the “Golden Elephant”
The Chinese investment vehicle known as “Golden Elephant No. 38″ promises buyers a 7.2 percent return per year. That’s more than double the rate offered on savings accounts nationally.
Absent from the product’s prospectus is any indication of the asset underpinning Golden Elephant: a near-empty housing project in the rural town of Taihe, at the end of a dirt path amid rice fields in one of China’s poorest provinces.
“They haven’t even built a proper road here,” said Li Chun, a car repairman, who said he lives in the project. “The local government is holding onto the flats and only wants to sell them when prices go up.”
Golden Elephant No. 38 is one of thousands of “wealth-management products”, instruments aimed at monied investors, which have shown phenomenal growth over the last five years. Sales of them soared 43 percent in the first half of 2012 to 12.14 trillion yuan ($1.90 trillion), according to a report by CN Benefit, a Chinese wealth-management consultancy.
They are usually created in China’s “shadow banking” system – non-banking institutions that are not subject to the same regulations as banks – which has grown to account for around a fifth of all new financing in China.
Like the subprime-debt lending spree in the United States that helped spark the 2008 financial crisis, the products are often opaque, and usually dependent on high-risk underlying assets, such as the Taihe housing project.
Chinese Banks’ Weapons of Mass Ponzi
Financial Times Alphaville picked up on the story in Chinese Banks’ Weapons of Mass Ponzi
We wrote last week that China’s shadow banking system was reflecting and, to an extent, contributing to a growing liquidity risk which in turn is being exacerbated by net capital outflows. Since then, there have been some interesting revelations on the domestic liquidity management, especially in shadow banking, and especially especially in wealth management products.
To recap, wealth management products or WMPs are a little like a term deposit, only they offer Chinese investors a more appealing rate of return than a normal bank deposit (which will deliver a negative real return) and it can be backed by assets — effectively, an informal securitisation.
If you’re wondering what sort of assets that includes, Reuters wrote up an excellent investigation of the WMP scene, beginning with the case study of “Golden Elephant no. 38″ which promises a 7.5 per cent return. It shows just how illiquid some of these things are.