Workers from China Railway Construction Group lay tracks along the Chengdu-Guiyang high-speed railway line. (Photo by Cao Ning/For China Daily)
The regulator of State-owned enterprises vowed to further reduce SOE debt levels and continue mergers and acquisitions among SOEs. The moves are designed to optimize resource allocation and boost performance.
"The whole of society pays close attention to the performance of SOEs, and deleveraging is a national strategy we consider of great importance and implement continuously and attentively," said Peng Huagang, deputy secretary-general and spokesman of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. Peng spoke at a news conference on Thursday.
The commission has implemented M&As for 38 SOEs, reducing the number of central SOEs to 96, according to Peng.
Eighteen enterprises have actively and steadily implemented market-oriented debt-to-equity swaps. They have signed framework agreements worth about 500 billion yuan ($75 billion), among which agreements worth 200 billion yuan have already been carried out, he said.
Key measures for the next phase of reducing SOE debt include improving organization to hold individuals responsible, adjusting and optimizing SOE structures to avoid making loans for investment, and implementing supply-side structural reform to cut overcapacity, Peng said.
Other measures include bolstering capital and cash flow management to improve efficiency and comprehensively strengthening risk prevention and debt control.
"We must watch out for debt risk and keep our eyes on the bottom line to avoid major risks," Peng said.
The commission announced that the debt-to-asset ratio of SOEs maintained a steady but downward trend in the first half of 2018.
By the end of June, the average debt-to-asset ratio was 66 percent, a 0.5 percentage point drop on a year-on-year basis, and a 0.3 percentage point drop compared with the beginning of the year.
The total interest-bearing liability of SOEs grew 4.9 percent year-on-year, which was 2.3 percentage points lower than that at the beginning of the year.
Fifty-nine enterprises saw their debt-to-asset ratios decline from the beginning of 2018, among which 29 dropped by more than 1 percentage point.
Peng also said the commission will keep promoting M&As of SOEs in key industries.
"Continuous progress is being made in mergers and acquisitions among SOEs, involving not only the fusing of management but also resources and corporate cultures," Peng said.
Next, the commission will promote group-level restructuring to better serve the national strategy of supply-side structural reform and industrial upgrading and transformation. It also will improve the overall efficiency of central SOEs through continuing to merge the noncore business units of a company with a business leader－a measure the commission has adopted in the past two years.
The commission will strengthen inspection of newly merged enterprises to evaluate the results of M&As and to direct operations toward better efficiency.
The first half of 2018 witnessed a record-high growth in SOEs' profits, the commission said.
Total profits of central SOEs was 887.79 billion yuan in the first half of this year, an increase of 166 billion yuan, or 23 percent year-on-year.
The accumulated operating revenue of SOEs during the period was 13.7 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 10.1 percent, and the growth rate was 1.4 percentage points faster than that of the first quarter.