Chinese state media has largely avoided reporting about turmoil at one of the nation’s top private wealth managers, an episode that underscores concern about possible contagion risk in the world’s No. 2 economy.
(Bloomberg) — Chinese state media has largely avoided reporting about turmoil at one of the nation’s top private wealth managers, an episode that underscores concern about possible contagion risk in the world’s No. 2 economy.
Only a handful of media outlets have written about Zhongzhi Enterprise Group Co. — a secretive financial conglomerate managing about 1 trillion yuan ($137 billion) that’s sometimes called China’s Blackstone — since several of its corporate clients disclosed overdue payments by a trust unit.
China Real Estate Business is one of the few government-backed media outlets to report on Zhongzhi in recent days, while China Fund News reported on a statement the company issued earlier this month.
Finance commentators and amateur writers have been discussing the issue on social media recently. Some state-backed media outlets have reported on the missed payments by Zhongrong International Trust, which is partly owned by Zhongzhi.
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The trust company has disclosed little to the public about its situation, though it has said it’s aware of forged letters on social media saying the company is no longer able to operate. The firm has reported them to authorities, according to a statement on its website on Monday.
The muted coverage of the situation in China highlights sensitivities around potential risks to the financial system, as President Xi Jinping tightens controls on the flow of information.
It will also fan investor fears about data transparency in the world’s second-largest economy amid a struggling recovery. On Tuesday, China said it would pause data releases on its soaring youth unemployment rate to iron out complexities in the numbers. The government replaced its new foreign minister, Qin Gang, without explanation late last month after he mysteriously disappeared from public view.
In 2021, state-run media largely kept China Evergrande Group off its front pages as protests broke out over overdue wealth management products.
China’s banking regulator set up a task force last month to examine risks at Zhongzhi Enterprise Group to gauge the outstanding debt and risks at one of the main financing arms of the company.
That measure underscores the extent to which officials have become alarmed by the situation at Zhongzhi, whose troubles have gained prominence in recent days.
The episode puts a fresh spotlight on China’s $2.9 trillion trust industry, which combines characteristics of commercial and investment banking, private equity and wealth management. Zhongrong is among the biggest players in the sector.
Firms in the industry pool savings from wealthy households and corporate clients to offer loans and invest in real estate, stocks, bonds and commodities.
–With assistance from Zhang Dingmin.
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