Bank of China

Key resignations signal reshuffle of top regulators

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 October, 2011, 12:00am

Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) chairman Xiang Junbo and China Construction Bank chairman Guo Shuqing resigned yesterday in a move many believe will kick off a long anticipated reshuffle of financial regulators at a time when the banking system is under pressure from economic uncertainties.

Xiang, 54, a former central bank deputy governor, left his post at the mainland's third-largest bank, according to a statement by the bank which did not elaborate on his next move. It did, however, say that Xiang's resignation was 'in compliance with the nation's financial need' - which was taken as code that Xiang would be appointed to another important financial job.

He was credited with pulling the strings behind ABC's US$22.1 billion dual-listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai last year.

He is widely tipped to take over from China Insurance Regulatory Commission chairman Wu Dingfu, who retires soon. Wu and China Banking Regulatory Commission chief Liu Mingkang both passed the compulsory retirement age of 65 earlier this year. The mainland's financial industry is abuzz with speculation on their replacements.

The top regulators of banking, insurance and securities carry ministerial rank and the chairmen of the Big Four state-owned lenders, including ABC, have always been the top candidates for the posts.

People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan, is also expected to step down soon since he turns 65 in January 2013 ahead of a cabinet reshuffle.

The reshuffle of the top financial regulators is coming sooner than expected; market watchers expected it to take place during the Communist Party Congress in the second half of next year - a time for the party to introduce a new generation of leaders.

Xiang was appointed ABC chairman after resigning as a deputy governor of the PBOC. He was tasked with the important job of launching the initial public offering of ABC, the only unlisted Big Four lender at the time.

The dual offering amid weak market sentiment last year was the world's largest IPO in history.

According to bankers informed of the reshuffle, Shang Fulin, 60, is expected to leave the China Securities Regulatory Commission before replacing Liu.

Guo, 55, resigned to do 'state financial work'. He is tipped to head the CSRC, while 58-year-old Jiang Jianqing , Industrial and Commercial Bank of China chairman, is a contender for PBOC governor, bankers say.

'The reshuffle of the significant financial authorities could eventually bring a sea change to the mainland's financial and capital markets,' said a Beijing banker. 'The new bosses will all have new thoughts and strategies on overseeing their own territories.'

The mainland's benchmark stock indicator has slumped 12 per cent this year after a 14.3 per cent decline last year.

Banks are plagued by worries about potential bad-loan problems after two years of easy credit.