Zhongrong Trust’s missed payments trigger fears among Chinese investors

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Anxious Chinese retail investors are bombarding listed companies with questions about their exposure to Zhongrong International Trust Co after missed payments by the trust company triggered fears of contagion across the country’s financial system.

Investors had submitted more than 100 questions to dozens of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed companies via investor relation platforms asking whether they had bought Zhongrong’s products, after two listed firms disclosed late on Friday that they had not received payment on maturing trust products from Zhongrong.

The long list of queries, which keeps growing, suggests Zhongrong’s liquidity crunch could trigger broader fears, and risk of contagion in a financial system already under pressure from China’s slowing economy.

Zhongrong managed assets worth 785.7 billion yuan ($107.69 billion) at the end of 2022, out of which 629.3 billion yuan were linked to trust products, according to its latest annual report.

This shows the negative impact of the Zhongrong incident has been “partly priced in by the market,” said Huang Yan, general manager of private fund manager Shanghai QiuYang Capital Co.

Zhongrong, controlled by Chinese financial conglomerate Zhongzhi Enterprise Group, traditionally had sizable real estate exposure. Its missed payments had added to stress in the financial sector from the country’s worsening property crisis.

One investor on Wednesday asked Shanghai-listed New China Life Insurance Company – which owned 14 billion yuan ($1.92 billion) of products from Zhongrong at the end of last year – whether there was a risk of missed payments. The company did not reply.

KBC Corp, after disclosing it had 60 million yuan of unpaid mature trust products from Zhongrong, told investors on Wednesday that other wealth management products the firm bought were all low-risk products from banks and securities firms.

Investors also asked dozens of other listed companies including Bescient Technology Co, Shanghai New Vision Microelectronics Co, Nanhua Instruments Co, Jiangsu Azure Corp whether they held investment products related to Zhongrong or Zhongzhi.

Most companies either said they did not own such products or had not responded.

Topsperity Securities said roughly 60 companies had disclosed that they owned Zhongrong’s trust products, and a majority of them were small companies with less than 10 billion yuan of market value.

The broker’s analysts say default in some products “doesn’t mean overall risk in the trust industry.”

“It’s more like emotional disturbance, while there may be short-term impacts on the finance sector and a few companies involved,” they said.

($1 = 7.2937 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Jason Xue in Shanghai and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; editing by Tomasz Janowski and Jason Neely)