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According to World Bank, China has recently used $45 billion of its huge reserves to recapitalise its state-owned banks bogged down by non-performing loans which analysts say could amount to 50 per cent of all lending in the country.

In 1998, the Chinese government raised a special 270 billion yuan ($32.5 billion) bond to help four of its largest state-owned banks ó Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China.

Beijing, which had foreign reserves of $401 billion at end-October, aims to cut the average bad loan ratio of the Big Four banks to 15 per cent by 2005 to help them list shares eventually. The government says about 24 per cent of the Big Fourís loans are non-performing, but ratings agency Standard & Poorís has said bad loans could account for 50 per cent of all lending.

Outstanding loans amounted to nearly $2 trillion, or about 150 per cent of GDP, according to central bank data last June. Chinese lenders have embarked on a lending spree as consumer deposits jumped, in stark contrast with several years ago, when obsession with bad-debt risk control caused banks to tighten their purse strings.


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