Troubled Shadow Bank Zhongrong Gets Help From China State Giants

(Bloomberg) -- An embattled Chinese shadow bank has taken a step closer to receiving potential state-led assistance, entering a partnership agreement with two of the nation’s biggest financial firms.

Most Read from Bloomberg

About a month after Zhongrong International Trust Co. missed payments on scores of investment products, roiling markets, it’s now signed an agreement with Citic Trust Co., a unit of conglomerate Citic Group Corp., and CCB Trust Co., backed by China Construction Bank Corp., the firm said in a statement Friday night.

The agreement provides so-called entrusted management services, Zhongrong said, and is aimed to “improve efficiency.” There was no specific mention of any financial terms or other types of assistance.

China’s government specifically asked Citic Trust and CCB Trust to examine Zhongrong’s books and lead the effort to stabilize its operations, Bloomberg News reported last month.

Read More: China Asks Citic to Examine Finances of Shadow Bank Zhongrong

Publicly acknowledging its troubles, Zhongrong, said Friday that it’s been unable to make payments as scheduled on some products. It blamed unspecified “multiple internal and external factors.”

Zhongrong and closely linked wealth firm Zhongzhi Enterprise Group spurred volatility in financial markets after halting payments on scores of investment products sold to wealthy individuals and companies. The crisis even sparked rare protests in Beijing.

QuickTake: Why Crisis at China Trust Firm Stokes Contagion Fears

Prior to the troubles becoming public, the National Administration of Financial Regulation established a working group in July to examine risks at Zhongrong, people familiar with the matter said earlier. Almost half of the funds raised by Zhongrong were funneled to its parent or affiliated units, one of the people said.

China’s trust industry is a key alternative funding source for weaker borrowers unable to get regular bank loans such as real estate developers and local government financing vehicles. Trusts pool money from clients and invest them into a variety of instruments and projects.

The sector — which has been severely affected by China’s property downturn — could face losses of the equivalent of $38 billion, according to a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimate.

Friday’s statement said that Zhongrong’s debt relationships and legal relationships in relation to trust products won’t be changed by the new pact with the two state-owned firms.

The company will continue to assume trustee responsibilities of the trust products according to relavent laws and contract clauses, Zhongrong said.

Citic Trust had 1.5 trillion yuan ($206 billion) of assets under management while CCB Trust oversaw about 1.4 trillion yuan, recent data show.

The accord takes effect Sept. 15 and lasts for one year, but the companies can negotiate an extension or early termination, according to the statement.

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.