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China’s local governments issue less debt in 2017

Updated: Jan 4,2018 3:24 PM     Xinhua

BEIJING — Local governments in China issued less debt in 2017 amid official efforts to ease the country’s debt burden, market data showed.

Local governments raised 4.36 trillion yuan (about $670 billion) through 1,134 instances of debt issuance in 2017, according to data compiled by Wind, a financial information provider.

The value was almost 30 percent lower than the 6.05 trillion yuan in debt issuance in 2016.

New debt issuance stood at 1.58 trillion yuan while that issued through the debt-for-bond swap program reached 2.77 trillion yuan.

The swap program allows local governments to exchange higher-cost loans with lower-cost bonds, saving them interest costs while also giving lenders higher liquidity on their receivables.

By the end of 2017, China had swapped 10.85 trillion yuan of debt under the program, leaving 1.88 trillion yuan of such debt to be exchanged in 2018.

According to Yang Xiaojing, an analyst with credit rating agency CCXI, China is expected to complete the swap program by mid-year, and the total debt issuance this year will remain at around 4 trillion yuan.

China’s local government debt soared during an investment and construction binge following the global financial crisis in 2008. Well aware of the risks, authorities have rolled out a string of measures including the debt-for-bond swap to reduce the local debt burden.

According to data released by the Ministry of Finance, by the end of November last year, the local government debt balance stood at 16.59 trillion yuan, below the government-targeted ceiling of 18.82 trillion yuan.

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