CHINA Private lending disputes to increase

By Yu Ran in Shanghai (July 12, 2012 9:17)

The number of private lending disputes involving large amounts of money in Zhejiang province has reached the peak in the last five years and is expected to increase until the end of the year, said a recent report by the Zhejiang High People’s Court.

The report issued by the court on Tuesday showed that 58,037 private lending disputes involving nearly 28.4 billion yuan ($4.46 billion) were handled in the first two quarters by courts in the province.

The number of cases increased by about 27 percent and the amount related to the cases is up nearly 130 percent compared with the same period last year.

Almost half of all commercial lawsuits in the province in the last few years were private financing disputes, especially after 2008.

Zhang Hengzhu, the chief judge of a civil court of the Zhejiang High People’s Court, told the Legal Daily newspaper that the increase of the amount of private lending disputes is expected to continue this year.

Zhang added that private lending activities are quite popular among small and medium-sized businesses in the province but have uncontrollable risks, which easily lead to sudden cash-flow problems.

Wenzhou is China’s hotbed of private capital. The city had the highest increase in private lending disputes in Zhejiang, up about 96 percent compared with the same time last year. The city is trying to recover from the tough period.

“Although the crisis had a negative impact on SMEs in the city, we’ve noticed that the majority of companies are recovering with more loans now being made available from banks,” said Zhou Dewen, chairman of the Wenzhou SME Development Association.

Wenzhou was selected for a pilot project at the end of March after many local entrepreneurs failed to repay their debts and fled the city due to the sudden tightening of State-owned banks’ loan lending policies for SMEs, which started in September.

During the credit crisis last year, about 100 businessmen in the city were reported to have disappeared, declared bankruptcy or committed suicide with debts exceeding 10 billion yuan.

Under the pilot project, the city suggested developing private-owned financial services, establishing village banks and rural financial agencies, and encouraged State-owned banks to lend to small businesses.

Wenzhou’s private lending registration service center was one of the first moves of the pilot scheme. The center aims to channel private funds into the financial system.

Up to July 9, the center had offered more than 600 million yuan in credit to borrowers, a majority of which are small and micro businesses.

“About 90 percent of the borrowers are owners and shareholders of SMEs, which regularly need the money for their manufacturing-based production lines,” said the center’s Xu Zhiqian.

Xu added that the center is trying to assist the banks in providing SMEs in the city with sufficient funds to solve their financial problems.

Business owners agree, but see a slow recovery.

“The situation is slowly getting better with the support from the government and the service center. But we still need a long time to recover completely from the crisis,” said Ye Jianqing, chairman of Wenzhou Zhenqing Optical Co Ltd.

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