Factbox-Five facts about China asset manager whose troubles fanned spillover fears

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – A liquidity crisis at one of China’s top asset managers Zhongzhi Enterprise Group has fuelled worries that the country’s deepening property sector crisis is spilling over into its $57 trillion financial industry, even as the economy is weakening.

The group will conduct a debt restructuring, investors sources told Reuters after being briefed by management, a video seen by Reuters showed, after a trust firm controlled by the group missed payments on dozens of investment products.

Zhongzhi’s trouble has raised worries of a contagion risk to the financial sector if other trust firms default on repayment obligations in the $3-trillion shadow banking industry, which traditionally has had high exposure to the property industry, which is in a deepening slump.

Here are five facts about Zhongzhi:

* Starting off with timber and real estate trades in the 1990s, Zhongzhi quickly expanded into businesses ranging from chipmaking, healthcare, new energy vehicles and finance, according to its website. Its financial businesses include trust, asset management, insurance, futures, and wealth management.

* The group is a shadow banking empire, managing over 1 trillion yuan ($136.85 billion) in assets. It holds stakes in five asset management companies, four wealth management firms, and has a 33% stake in Zhongrong International Trust, a major trust company, which sold opaque trust products to individual as well as institutional investors promising as much as 6%-7% return, compared to the benchmark one-year bank deposit rate of 1.5%.

* Xie Zhikun, the billionaire founder of Zhongzhi, died in December 2021 after suffering a heart attack in Beijing. Xie’s wife is popular singer Mao Amin, and he is the brother of Xie Zhichun, former executive director of Central Huijin.

* Zhongzhi has been selling stakes in some listed companies it controlled over the past few years, and reducing the size of it business, after coming under pressure in the wake of China’s crackdown on shadow banking, and the property market downturn.

* Still, Zhongrong, which manages more than 700 billion yuan of assets, has a comparatively high exposure to the real estate sector compared to its peers. Zhongrong Trust’s real estate investment exposure accounted for 10.7% of its total assets under management as of the end of 2022, higher than industry average of 5.8%, according to a report from Citigroup.

($1 = 7.3074 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Ziyi Tang and Ryan Woo in Beijing, Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Kim Coghill)