More Chinese banks stop mortgage loans as quotas run out

Survey shows the trend that started in top-tier cities has extended to 17 areas as quotas run out and authorities tighten restrictions on prices

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 3:32am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 3:32am

More mainland banks have stopped extending mortgage loans as their annual lending quotas run out and a rising number of cities tighten curbs on housing prices.

A survey of 500 banks in 32 cities by Rong360, a private search engine for financial products, showed that around 17 per cent of mainland banks had stopped extending mortgage loans to buyers of first and second homes this month, with more expected to follow suit by the end of the year. The trend first emerged last month in top-tier cities, and has now spread to 17 cities.

Meanwhile, nine cities - with Xiamen, Nanchang and Shenyang the latest additions on Monday - announced fresh measures in the past two months to contain soaring home prices. The measures include a cap on the asking prices of projects up for pre-sale approval and higher deposit and stricter purchase restrictions targeting non-local residents.

"From a policy perspective, property controls will get reinforced," the Rong360 report said. "For example, there is rising expectation of property tax getting expanded.

"Banks right now may have well underweighted the property market, so they are cutting mortgage loans to reduce risk."

Intensifying cooling policies pushed down property shares yesterday, with China Vanke, the mainland's biggest homebuilder, down 0.8 per cent in Shenzhen, and China Overseas Land & Investment, another industry leader, also shedding 0.8 per cent in Hong Kong.

New bank loans to the property sector surged in the first nine months of this year to 1.9 trillion yuan (HK$2.4 trillion), including 1.37 trillion yuan of mortgage loans, adding fuel to housing inflation and forcing local officials to roll out fresh cooling measures as home prices surged out of the leadership's comfort zone.

Alongside measures introduced by individual cities, the mainland's financial regulators have also stepped up oversight of funds flowing into real estate.

The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) has drafted new rules banning banks from evading lending limits by structuring loans to other financial institutions so that they can be recorded as asset sales, Bloomberg reported yesterday, citing unnamed sources.

"Banks have strong incentives to skirt around the quota limit," said Xu Jin, a credit specialist with Rong360. "But regulators have constantly demonstrated firm determination to restrict their off-balance-sheet activities."

The CBRC's move followed a recent warning from the central bank, in its latest monetary report, that "China's economy may go through a long period of deleveraging and reducing overcapacity. Problems in the real estate sector and local government debts are prominent".

The Rong360 survey showed that up to eight banks in Zhuhai have stopped extending mortgage loans, while five have done so in Beijing. Those banks are mostly medium-sized and small lenders including Ping An Bank and China Everbright Bank, while others have either extended the approval process to two months and beyond from the previous one month, or increased mortgage rates.

At the start of next year, banks will rush to lend again, including mortgage loans, because of new full-year quotas.

"China's property market will have a soaring start in the first quarter, with strong credit support," said Edison Bian, a property analyst with CCB International in Hong Kong.