China warns enterprises against fiscal risks after CITIC Pacific scandal
BEIJING, April 13 (Xinhua) -- China's Ministry of Finance (MOF) urged Chinese enterprises to conduct better fiscal management Monday to fend off risks amid the worsening global economic environment.
Chinese companies are facing higher investment risks, declining asset quality and heavier fiscal burdens, according to a circular issued by the MOF.
The circular came after the Hong Kong-listed state-run conglomerate CITIC Pacific announced a top-management reshuffle last week amid probes of its reported huge losses from wrong bets on foreign exchanges last year.
Investment in financial derivatives such as hedging should be conducted prudently and speculative acts are forbidden, said the MOF.
It told Chinese firms to carry forward with mergers and acquisitions in an active and safe way and avoid unnecessary losses from blind expansion.
Enterprises were also required to strengthen cost control, ensure enough cash liquidity and make efforts to reduce excessive inventories.
The MOF's circular echoed a February government announcement to launch a special examination on major investment projects and mergers of centrally-administered state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to prevent fiscal risks.
The 2008 profits of Chinese SOEs under direct central government control recorded the first annual decline since 2002, falling more than 30 percent year on year to 665.29 billion yuan (97.2 billion U.S. dollars).
While the global financial crisis took a toll on the SOE profits, loose fiscal management also contributed to the profit slump, Meng Jianmin, deputy chief of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), told a conference in February.
Management problems included too heavy debt burdens due to excessive expansion and losses from speculative investment in derivatives, said Meng.
In a recent case in the spotlight, CITIC Pacific, a Hong Kong affiliate of the Beijing-based centrally-owned CITIC Group, announced last Wednesday the resignation of both the company's founding chairman Larry Yung Chi Kin and managing director Henry Fan Hung Ling, amid an official probe into its currency loss scandal.
The CITIC Pacific disclosed in October potential losses may exceed 15 billion HK dollars (1.9 billion U.S. dollars) from unauthorized hedging by senior financial managers against changes in the exchange rates of foreign currencies, notably the Australian dollar.