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ICBC's NPL Ratio Down to 14.9 Percent

China's biggest commercial bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), said in Beijing on Wednesday that its non-performing assets and loans ratios had declined to 14.9 percent and 19.6 percent respectively by the end of May.

In the past more than three years, the ICBC has written off non-performing assets of 195 billion yuan (US$23.5 billion), including 36.2 billion yuan (US$4.36 billion) in the five months of 2004, said an ICBC spokesman.

From 2000 to 2003, its operating profits accumulated to 150 billion yuan (US$18.1 billion), which contributed a lot to recovery of its non-performing assets, according to the bank.

From 2004 to 2006, the bank expects to net 240 billion yuan (US$28.9 billion) of business profits, which will help to dispose of 300 billion yuan-worth (US$36.1 billion) of non-performing assets, according to the spokesman.

The good performance of the bank will bring its non-performing assets and loans ratios to 13 percent and 18 percent respectively by the end of 2004, and six percent and 10 percent by 2006, the spokesman said.

By the end of May, the total loans of ICBC had reached 3530.2 billion yuan (US$425.3 billion), the newly-added parts of which are good in compliance with the internationally accepted classification system, according to the bank.

The ICBC earlier expressed its hope to win a stock market listing in 2006. A prerequisite for the ICBC to go public is to become a joint-stock enterprise. Industrial insiders say the bank would usher in strategic foreign investors just like the Bank of China (BOC), another state-owned bank which recently expressed the hope to sell shares in 2005.

China's "big four" state-owned banks are the ICBC, the BOC, the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) and the China Construction Bank (CCB). Due to excessive lending to money-losing state-owned enterprises in the past decades, all of them became debt-laden.

China's State Council, or the cabinet, poured a total of US$45 billion-- using the country's massive foreign currency reserve -- into the BOC and CCB to help them raise capital in cash, a threshold for a bank to gain stock market listing.

(Xinhua News Agency June 17, 2004)

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