Monday, July 21, 2008

Bank of China may hold huge US debt

Bank of China may hold huge US debt

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Bank of China Ltd may own about $20 billion of debt issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, representing two-thirds of total holdings among the six largest Chinese banks, according to CLSA Ltd.

The Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae investments would amount to about 2.6 percent of total assets at Bank of China, the nation's third-biggest, CLSA analysts said yesterday in a note to clients. That compares with 0.09 percent at larger Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC), they said.

ICBC may have $1 billion of securities linked to the two beleaguered US home loan companies, while China Construction Bank Corp, the second largest, may have $7 billion of such holdings, according to the report. China CITIC Bank Co may own $1.4 billion of agency debt, CLSA said.

The government-sponsored companies tumbled on Tuesday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading as investors lost confidence in Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's plan to shore up their finances. Moody's Investors Service reduced the lenders' financial strength ratings, saying credit losses may jeopardize dividend payments on preferred shares.

As most Chinese banks classify the holdings as available-for-sale or held-to-maturity, they are unlikely to book a loss on their income statements, and declines in bond prices in July won't affect first-half earnings, CLSA said.

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