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China US$160m investment vehicle misses payments

A US$160 million investment vehicle sold by China's second-largest bank has missed four scheduled payments, state media reported, as fears grow that potential financial sector defaults could roil markets in the world's second-biggest economy.

SHANGHAI: A US$160 million investment vehicle sold by China's second-largest bank has missed four scheduled payments, state media reported, as fears grow that potential financial sector defaults could roil markets in the world's second-biggest economy.

The "Songhuajiang River No.77" product, which raised a total of 972.7 million yuan (US$160 million) in six tranches, had failed to repay investors' capital and interest four times by early February, the 21st Century Business Herald reported late Thursday.

Investors were also informed by Jilin Province Trust, which structured the product, that they will not receive the fifth payment due on February 19, according to the report.

China Construction Bank promoted the scheme, which funded a coal company, as a "risk-free and high-yield" investment, promising annual returns of 9.8 per cent, investors told the paper.

The news comes after a possible default on a US$500 million investment product, sold by the country's largest bank ICBC and also backed by a loan to a debt-ridden coal firm, was averted in late January just three days ahead of deadline.

Analysts worry that China likely faces further problems in the trust sector.

A total 5.3 trillion yuan worth of trust products will mature this year, up 50 per cent from 2013, state media have reported, citing research from Haitong Securities.

Default on such investment products would send a shock wave through China's multi-trillion dollar "shadow banking" system -- a massive network of lending outside formal channels -- in the world's second-largest economy, analysts said.

With the "Songhuajiang River No.77" product, the coal firm it was supposed to fund, Shanxi Liansheng Energy, filed for bankruptcy re-organisation in November last year after incurring around 30 billion yuan of debts.

"As far as we know, there's no problem with the firm's assets. The firm is negotiating with investors," 21st Century Business Herald cited Jilin Province Trust as saying.

"We are all very anxious," the official Shanghai Securities News on Wednesday quoted an investor as saying ahead of the February 19 maturation.

Neither the coal firm nor China Construction Bank could be reached for confirmation by AFP, while Jilin Province Trust declined to comment.

Despite mounting default risks, China's trust sector has proliferated on the back of strong investor interest as such products often promise much higher returns than traditional bank deposits.

The country's trust assets surged 46 per cent to a record 10.9 trillion yuan in 2013, industry group China Trustee Association said Thursday in a statement.

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