Two weeks ago, when commenting on the PBOC’s latest required reserve ratio cut, we pointed out that one of the more prominent risks facing the Chinese stock market, and potentially explaining why the Shanghai Composite simply can’t catch a bid during the recent rout, is the risk of a wave of margin calls resulting in forced selling of stocks pledged as collateral for loans.
The pledging of shares as loan collateral – a practice that has gotten increasingly more popular over the years – has been especially prevalent among smaller companies as we observed in February and initially, last June. Unlike in the U.S., where institutional shareholders are a big market presence, private Chinese firms are often controlled by a major shareholders, who often own more than half of company. These big stakes are the most convenient tool for such big shareholders to raise their own funds.
Here, the risk for other shareholders is that when major investors take out such share-backed loans is that stocks can plunge sharply when the borrowers run into trouble, and are forced to liquidate stocks to repay the loan. Hong Kong-listed China Huishan Dairy fell 85% in one day in March 2017: It is unclear what triggered the selloff in the first place, but the fact that Huishan’s chairman had pledged almost all of his majority shareholding in the company to creditors was likely a key factor.
Small caps aside, the marketwide numbers are staggering: about $1 trillion worth of stocks listed in China’s two main markets, Shanghai or Shenzhen, are being pledged as collateral for loans, according to data from the China Securities Depository and ChinaClear. More ominously, this trends has exploded in the past three years, and according to Bank of America, some 23% of all market positions were leveraged in some way by the end of last year in China, double from the start of 2015.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…