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Chinese banks may raise more Tier 2 debt to bolster capital amid uncertainties

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Chinese banks may raise more Tier 2 debt to bolster capital amid uncertainties

Chinese banks may sell more Tier 2 bonds through the year to strengthen their capital levels, after an issuance by the nation's second-largest lender pushed aggregate fundraising by Asia-Pacific banks to the highest monthly level in four months in August.

Banks in Asia-Pacific raised about $19.94 billion through a mix of equity and debt in August, the highest monthly figure since April, when $26.25 billion was raised, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Banks in China accounted for more than 77% of the region's total, thanks to China Construction Bank Corp.'s $12.34 billion issuance of Tier 2 bonds.

Chinese banks have been selling Tier 2 bonds to boost their capital adequacy ratio, said Cao Zhu, a Shenzhen, China-based analyst at brokerage Guotai Junan Securities. "We believe as regulators encourage banks to replenish their capital, the capital adequacy ratio for Chinese lenders will remain strong."

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Lenders in China are building buffers amid concerns of an economic slowdown due to the recent spike of COVID-19 cases linked to the delta variant, the crackdown on some fast-growing sectors and the ongoing trade tensions with the U.S. Their peers in Australia and India too have sought to strengthen their capital to stay comfortably above minimum requirements. Even some regulators have stepped in to ensure that banks stay resilient to any future shocks. New Zealand's central bank has announced plans to implement some of the toughest bank capital standards worldwide.

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Both Cao and Chen Shujin, Hong Kong-based head of China financial institutions group research at Jefferies, said the size of Chinese banks' Tier 2 bond issuance will likely remain large in the second half of 2021. "As capital adequacy will continue to be under pressure, the size of tier-two bonds issuance will still be large in the second half," Chen said.

Overall, Chinese banks remain above the 10.5% minimum capital adequacy ratio required for commercial banks. For systemically important banks such as China Construction Bank and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., the minimum required is 11.5%.

On an aggregate basis, the total capital ratio of Chinese banks covered by Market Intelligence improved to 15.11% in 2020 from 15.01% in 2019, though it was down from an average of more than 18% in the previous three years. On an individual level, China Construction Bank's capital adequacy ratio fell to 16.58% as of June 30, from 17.06% at the end of 2020. Bank of Zhengzhou Co. Ltd.'s total capital ratio fell to 12.95% as of June 30 from 13.26% as of March 31, while Bank of China (Hong Kong) Ltd. saw its ratio decline to 19.79% from 22.10%, according to Market Intelligence data.

Chinese banks prefer Tier 2 bonds over Tier 1 perpetual bonds because of a change in local pricing requirements, according to Chen.

"Perpetual bonds were usually priced using cost amortization, but according to the latest requirement, they will need to be priced using net asset value," Chen said. "This makes a bit tricky for Tier 1 bonds. So, Tier 2 bonds become an easier choice for lenders."

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Tepid Equity

Meanwhile, capital raised via equity issuances — initial public offerings, follow-on offerings and nonconvertible debt — represented just 13.8% of the funds raised in August, according to Market Intelligence data. The offerings included Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank Co. Ltd.'s $1.32 billion IPO in Shanghai, Commonwealth Bank of Australia's $1.07 billion convertible notes issue and India-based Canara Bank's $337.3 million follow-on common offering.