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New Auto Loan Regulation to Be Promulgated

China's widely-anticipated auto financing regulation will be formally promulgated this year, economic sources said.

Ten months after a trial version of the regulation on auto finance companies was published by the central bank last year for public comment, officials announced last week that the regulation will be unveiled by the end of this year.

The unexpectedly long wait after the release of the trial version of the regulation had dashed early hopes that the rules, which outline market entry requirements for China's potentially lucrative auto financing market, might come out as early as the first half of the year.

The auto financing arms of global automakers, including Ford and General Motors, have applied to the nation's central bank to set up car financing branches in China, hoping the vast new market could boost their international sales.

One of the reasons for the delay of the regulation's release, analysts say, was a government restructuring earlier this year that shifted bank regulatory functions from the central bank to the newly established China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC).

As a result of the restructuring, the CBRC, instead of the central People's Bank of China, will be supervising auto financing companies. Just how that supervision will occur is spelled out in the new regulation.

Applicants will have to file documents again, likely with some revisions, according to sources within the CBRC.

Another reason for the delay is a central bank inspection in June into auto lending practices by the four State-owned commercial banks following a major car loan default in North China's Shanxi Province.

Growing car loan defaults in recent years have prompted nearly all major domestic insurance firms to announce suspensions over the past few months in sales of car loan insurance policies.

But such frustrations cannot offset the attractiveness of the vast Chinese market, where only a 15 per cent or so fraction of its fast-growing car sales are financed by car loans, as compared to as high of 70 per cent in developed countries.

The trial rules state that foreign and domestic non-banking financial institutions wanting to set up car financing businesses in China must have minimum assets of 8 billion yuan (US$963 million). Such businesses must have at least 500 million yuan (US$60 million) in registered capital.

Jia Xinguang, an analyst with the China National Automotive Industry Consulting and Development Corp, said such capitalization standards are relatively high numbers to meet, especially for Chinese firms.

(China Daily September 1, 2003)

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