Wednesday August 15, 2007

Bank of China denies report on subprime loss

SHANGHAI: Bank of China Ltd, the country's largest foreign exchange lender, denied a report that it may have a 3.85 billion yuan (US$508mil) loss this year from investments in US subprime loans.

“The report is groundless and irresponsible,'' Wang Zhaowen, a spokesman for Beijing-based Bank of China, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

The bank would disclose information on subprime-related holdings in its first-half earnings report due on Aug 23, Wang said. Bank of China said this month its subprime losses for the six months would be “insignificant'', without giving details.

Six Chinese banks with shares traded in Hong Kong may lose a combined 4.9 billion yuan on subprime investments this year, Beijing-based Capital Week reported on Aug 12. That includes the Bank of China figure as well as an estimated loss of 103 million yuan for China Merchants Bank Co.

Shares in Bank of China have fallen 10% in Hong Kong during the past month as financial stocks in Asia-Pacific markets slid on concern fallout from the subprime collapse will spread.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc, Japan's biggest bank, fell to its lowest in almost two years yesterday after Australian mortgage lender Rams Home Loans Group Ltd said “unprecedented disruptions'' in credit markets may reduce its profit.

The Japanese bank said it had about 300 billion yen (US$2.5bil) of investments that incorporate subprime loans.

The MSCI Asia-Pacific Financials Index has lost 8.3% during the same period, the second worst performance on the broader measure after energy shares.

Merchants Bank said on Monday it held no investments backed by subprime loans. The country's seventh largest bank sold its asset-backed and mortgaged-backed securities last August after a 13.4% return on the investments, president Ma Weihua said. – Bloomberg

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