China pushes new candidate towards top of Huarong Asset Management

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s banking watchdog named Liang Qiang, an asset management veteran, to the senior post of deputy communist party boss at China Huarong Asset Management Co, the state-run firm that has faced restructuring, the company said on Tuesday.

Liang, now president of state-owned Great Wall Asset Management, was also recommended for the position of Huarong’s president and executive director, the company statement said, citing a meeting of executives on June 4.

Liang’s appointment to the post was read out by an official from the watchdog, China Banking and Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), at the June 4 meeting, according to the statement.

The position of deputy communist party boss in a Chinese state-owned firm gives the holder a powerful voice in the business decisions. The holder usually also has an executive position at the same company.

The appointment of Liang follows Huarong’s restructuring, which spooked investors in China’s dollar-bond market in April when it delayed its business results, prompting ratings downgrades, warnings from global agencies and the suspension in share trading. Dealings in its shares are still suspended.

After two years of restructuring its assets, the regulators are pushing Huarong to sell non-core financial assets and are considering informal backing for its $20 billion of dollar debt due this year, Reuters reported last week.

The Finance Ministry is the biggest shareholder in Beijing-based Huarong, which was established in the 1990s to handle soured debts at state banks. Former chairman Lai Xiaomin was executed in January after a corruption investigation into the period when he expanded Huarong into a financial conglomerate.

Reshuffling the leadership of state-controlled asset management companies (AMCs) like Huarong comes amid reforms of state “bad banks”. Other state AMCs may also follow the lead of Huarong to streamline their businesses, Reuters reported.

(Reporting by Cheng Leng, Zhang Yan and Ryan Woo; Editing by Louise Heavens and Edmund Blair)