Published On: Fri, Feb 3rd, 2012

CSRC to Open Securities to Pension Funds

Guo ShuqingGuo Shuqing, head of China’s top securities regulator, reiterated on Thursday his goal of opening stock investment to the country’s pension funds, which have largely been unmanaged with returns that hardly beat inflation.

There would be an “active push for pension and housing provident funds to be invested in the securities market”, said the chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) in an article in the China Securities Journal.

Guo, who assumed his position in October, first expressed the intention in a public speech in December, when he said that allowing the funds to invest in the equity market would be “beneficial to the country, the capital markets and every citizen”.

But Guo’s proposal got a cool response from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, which is in charge of the funds.

A spokesman with the ministry, Yin Chengji, told the Xinhua News Agency during a news conference on Jan 20 that pension funds required the ministry’s approval to invest in stocks and the ministry “temporarily had no plan” to approve such a move.

“There are strict rules for the management of different social securities funds in China. According to existing rules, pension funds can only be invested in national bonds or put into bank accounts,” said Yin.

Analysts said that Guo’s comments on Thursday showed the new chairman’s determination to push on with his plan.

“I think Guo sees bringing pension funds into the securities market as one of the most important changes he wants to make as the new chairman,” said Liu Guanwu, an analyst with Beijing-based consultancy Analysys International.

But he said that further inter-departmental communications were needed to make the plan a reality.

In China, pension fund contributions by employees are largely unmanaged. Once the capital is out of the employee’s hands, little is done to ensure that it grows in line with inflation. No central government agency is responsible for investing the money, and few local governments take that step.

As of the end of 2010, only 31.8 billion yuan ($5 billion) of the country’s 1.6 trillion yuan in pension fund assets had been invested in securities, according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

A report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said that the nation’s pension funds yield less than 2 percent a year, while the consumer price index increased 5.4 percent in 2011, meaning its value shrank in real terms.

Feng Jin, a professor of labor economics at Fudan University in Shanghai, agreed that the pension funds should be more actively managed, but she added that stock markets abroad would be more suitable than domestic ones.

The investment of pension funds is just one of several reforms that the new chairman has initiated since October.

After vowing to crack down on insider trading and pushing listed companies to increase their dividend payouts, the CSRC took steps on Wednesday to boost its transparency by publishing a full list of Chinese companies that have applied for a domestic IPO.

The list, which will be updated weekly, included more than 500 companies, including China Postal Express & Logistics Corp and Guosen Securities Co.

Companies typically wait for about six months before obtaining regulatory approval for a listing after submitting an IPO application. Under the current system, the CSRC only posts a copy of the draft prospectus on its website, along with a date for the review of the IPO plan.

Source: China Daily

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