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Finance firms now profitable business in China

BEIJING, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Chinese finance companies expanded much faster than other sectors in the first quarter, posting a year-on-year increase of 24.22 percent and reaping 16.06 billion yuan (2.61 billion U.S. dollars) in profits, according to data released Monday by the China National Association of Finance Companies (CNAFC).

The profit growth by the finance companies outpaced the 7.4-percent growth in China's gross domestic product in the first quarter, while far exceeding the 3.3 percent increase for the country's state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which reported combined profits of 533.7 billion yuan during the period.

However, most of the finance companies, considered part of the country's shadow banking system, are set up by SOEs such as China Mobile, Sinopec and China Huaneng, according to a 157-member list on the CNAFC website.

A growing number of Chinese companies, state-owned or private, are looking to finance business for profits, as easy credit is no longer available amid the country's drive to restructure its economy.

State firms that have set up their own finance subsidiaries account for 88.6 percent of profits for all SOEs administered by the central government.

China currently has approved a total of 84 finance firms in business, allowing cash-rich conglomerates to grant loans outside the banking system, with their lending mainly to the infrastructure, manufacturing, labor service, entertainment and personal consumption sectors.

Outstanding loans by the finance companies added 2.48 percent from the end of last year to 1.14 trillion yuan at the end of March.

Total assets of such finance companies rose 0.47 percent from the end of last year to reach 4.32 trillion yuan during the period, with average capital-to-asset ratio standing at 28.36 percent, the CNAFC data showed.

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