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China's big 4 banks boost lending in state stimulus push

Bad debt shrank in 2018, but a rise in loans risks generating more

A view of Shanghai's financial district. China's top four banks' collective loan balance rose 9% in 2018.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- China's big four state-owned banks stepped up lending to small and midsize businesses in 2018, acting on orders from authorities as Beijing seeks to invigorate a sluggish domestic economy.

The collective loan balance at Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of China was up 9% to 52.5 trillion yuan ($7.8 trillion) at the end of 2018 from a year earlier, with added interest and fee income feeding a 4% to 5% rise in net profit, earnings reports released this week showed.

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