Debt warning for mortgage lenders

Shanghai's banking regulator has warned city lenders about the financial risks from mortgage lending, in what is being seen as an effort to tighten the supply of credit to the property sector following central government moves to slow the market.

The Shanghai Banking Regulatory Bureau said property-related loans made up one-third of total lending by domestic banks in Shanghai, though it gave no figure. Analysts warn a property market slowdown could generate more bad loans.

'Commercial banks should comprehensively consider the macro economy, market risk and operational management to appropriately set targets for property lending operations and assessment,' the bureau said.

The order followed last week's announcement by the State Council of six measures aimed at slowing overheating in the property market, including the use of credit policies.

Bankers said mortgage lending was already tight in Shanghai following calls last year to crack down on speculation. The Shanghai branch of the People's Bank of China recently said the volume of new mortgage loans fell by about 2.3 billion yuan in April from the same month last year, extending a nine-month declining trend.

As business has slowed, Shanghai banks have offered new products to maintain their mortgage business, including extending loans to individuals without guarantees from property developers, fixed-rate loans and multiple mortgages for a single property.

'The purpose of the notice is to warn about the risks from the new methods of lending, which are offered to attract customers amid competition. We have just been asked not to slacken attention from checking the credit of customers,' said a mortgage loan officer at a domestic bank in Shanghai.

Morgan Stanley economist Andy Xie traces the nationwide property boom to excess liquidity created by expectations of a stronger yuan and to the dependence of local governments on revenue from property.

'As governments guarantee bank deposits directly or indirectly, banks take excessive risks during a property bubble for profits and worry less about [the] downside than they should,' he said in a report last week.