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China’s banking regulator is preparing new rules to forbid “invisible shareholders”, a response to the widespread use of shell companies and proxies to disguise the true owners of major Chinese banks and other companies.
A spokesman for the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) announced the impending rules at a press briefing on Friday without elaborating. Chinese banks are mostly state-owned, but private investors can still accumulate significant minority stakes.
CBRC chairman Guo Shuqing, has rolled out a series of aggressive policy measures since taking up the post in February. Mr Guo is widely seen as a frontrunner to be China’s next central bank governor when Zhou Xiaochuan retires steps down in the coming months.
Suspicions that senior political figures or their families use so-called “white gloves” to conceal valuable stakes in big companies are longstanding but have escalated this year.
Fugitive billionaire Guo Wengui has alleged that Wang Qishan, the powerful anti-corruption chief and political ally of President Xi Jinping, or his family have benefitted from secret ties to HNA Group, the privately-owned conglomerate that has been among the most aggressive acquirors of global assets in recent years.
Those connections haven’t been proven, but HNA has acknowledged that official filings did not represent the group’s true ownership.
Investors have also speculated about the true ownership of Anbang Insurance Group, another major player in big global acquisitions. Caixin, a highly respected business news website, described Anbang’s dizzyingly complex ownership structure and use of hundreds of shell companies in an exposé in April. Anbang is a major shareholder in several Chinese banks, including China Merchants Bank and Minsheng Bank.