BEIJING: Loans related to the alleged over-pledging of aluminium inventories in China may total more than US$1bil (RM4.4bil), as scrutiny of the nation’s trading and warehousing operations spreads.
The lenders, most of which are state-owned and private traders and don’t include any banks, have at least seven billion yuan (RM4.6bil) of exposure to companies at the centre of the over-pledging allegations, according to sources.
The estimate is based on the knowledge of those directly involved in the trades and is likely to grow with the ongoing police investigation. Some creditors have started reviewing their base-metal trading business and have temporarily halted new deals, they said.
The alleged fraud came to light in Guangdong last month when several firms found metals they financed might not exist. The resulting panic drove traders to check and sell their inventories, weakening spot and futures prices. It put the opaque world of commodities financing in China in the spotlight. Compared with a similar scandal in Qingdao nearly a decade ago, in which banks and other international traders ended up with an exposure of more than 20 billion yuan (RM13.1bil) it’s so far a lot smaller.
Still, scrutiny is intense, with more traders and warehouses involved.
Possible consequences include less liquidity in base metals trading, and access to financing for smaller companies in the sector becoming more difficult. It’s also happening as Beijing struggles to revive an economy battered by virus lockdowns.
The traders at the centre of the case are barely known outside of Chinese commodities trading circles, and the inventories in question weren’t registered with the Shanghai Futures Exchange, China’s biggest metals bourse, the sources said.
The allegations started in a single facility in Foshan city and impacted several warehouses in Shanghai and Zhejiang province. The aluminium inventories in those facilities account for about 14% of nationwide stockpiles, industry consultancy Shanghai Metals Market said in a note last Thursday.
Commodities traders running on already razor-thin margins have been operating under even tougher financing conditions in recent months, while banks are more cautious on lending because of bigger price swings. — Bloomberg