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Amid a string of recent sell-downs by Western banks of their stakes Chinese lenders, another sector in China’s finance industry could be seeing renewed interest: trust companies.As the WSJ reports Wednesday, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. will buy a 19.9% stake in China’s Bridge Trust Co., based in Zhengzhou, Henan province. It comes shortly after Bank of Montreal said it would take a 19.99% stake in Cofco Trust, a unit of China’s state-owned agricultural trading house, Cofco Group.These investments also take place against a backdrop of Wall Street banks cutting their holdings in Chinese lenders, signaling continuing worries over the outlook for the sector. Goldman Sachs has been steadily paring its stake in Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, for example, while Bank of America Merrill Lynch cut half its stake in China Construction Bank last year. Citigroup Inc. sold its stake in Shanghai Pudong Development Bank this week.The recent interest in these vehicles could indicate that Western banks are taking a new look at trust companies, as investments in large Chinese lenders seem too volatile Goldman made a loss in Asia last year due to the plunging value of its ICBC stake while their securities joint ventures in China struggle to be highly profitable.Trust companies appear to offer a better alternative. These lightly regulated vehicles occupy a special place in the country’s financial sector. They don’t take on the risk of an investment, but channel funds from companies and rich individuals to other investments including private equity, loans, bonds, stocks and stakes in property development, connecting Western banks with China’s wealthy population and huge savings pool. There are more than 60 trust companies in the country.They have been instrumental in making up the shortfall in lending to property developers as conventional banks pulled back their exposure to the sector last year, particularly during the second quarter. But in a bid to cool credit growth and curtail “shadow financing,” Chinese regulators also started clamping down on that loophole in the middle of 2011 by requiring that any trust financing for a property project must be vetted by the China Banking Regulatory Commission. As a result, trust financing to developers plunged by year-end. Earlier this year, China also banned trust firms from selling commercial-paper backed products.Despite the crackdown, interest in trust companies continues to balloon. Tired of putting their money in underperforming stocks and mutual funds, Chinese investors have been piling into trusts, with total trust assets under management up 58.25% at the end of 2011 to 1.67 trillion yuan.There was a wave of Western interest in trust companies a few years ago. The first foreign lender to enter the trust market was National Australia Bank Ltd. in 2008. In 2009, Macquarie Group Ltd. formed trust company joint venture with two state-backed companies, Sino-Australian International Trust Co. Morgan Stanley also invested in Hangzhou Industrial & Commercial Trust Co. in the same year. Barclays Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland PLC also have investments in the sector.Japan’s Sumitomo Trust & Banking Co. has also said earlier this year it hopes to invest more in China’s trust industry by offering financial services and products to local companies and wealthy individuals. It already has an investment dating back to 2010 in Nanjing Trust Investment Company.西方银行最近进行了一系列减持中资银行股份的操作，此时中国金融行业的另一个领域可能重新引起了它们的兴趣：信托公司。《华尔街日报》(Wall Street Journal)周三报道，摩根大通公司(J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.)将购买河南郑州的百瑞信托有限责任公司(Bridge Trust Co.) 19.9%的股份。此前不久，蒙特利尔银行(Bank of Montreal)曾宣布将收购中粮信托有限责任公司(Cofco Trust) 19.99%的股份，中粮信托是中国国有农产品贸易集团中粮集团(Cofco Group)的子公司。Gilles Sabrie for the Wall Street Journal一直以来，中国房地产开发商的融资都相当依赖信托公司。这些投资发生的同时，华尔街的银行正在减持它们在中资银行的股份，反映出它们仍担忧这一领域的前景。例如，高盛(Goldman Sachs)一直在逐步缩减所持中国工商银行(Industrial & Commercial Bank of China)的股份，而美银美林(Bank of America Merrill Lynch)去年将所持中国建设银行(China Construction Bank)的股份削减了一半。花旗集团(Citigroup Inc.)本周出售了上海浦东发展银行股份有限公司(Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, 简称：浦发银行) 的股份。最近的事件表明，西方银行正在用全新的眼光看待信托公司，因为投资大的中资银行似乎不太保险，例如，由于中国工商银行股价的下跌，高盛去年在亚洲遭遇了亏损。而西方银行在中国组建的证券合资公司也很难大规模盈利。信托公司似乎是一种更好的选择。这些公司受到监管的限制较少，而且在中国的金融领域占据着特殊的地位。他们不需要承担投资的风险，而是将公司和有钱的个人的资金用于其他投资，包括私募股权、贷款、证券、股票和房地产股份，将西方银行和中国有钱人以及巨额储蓄联系起来。中国有超过60家信托公司。由于传统银行在去年、尤其是第二季度缩减在房地产方面的敞口，这些公司有效地弥补了房地产开发商贷款的短缺。但是，为了使信贷增长降温，减少影子融资，中国监管机构在2011年年中开始要求为房地产项目提供的信托融资必须接受中国银行业监督管理委员会的审查，以打击影子融资钻空子的行为。因此，开发商获得的信托融资在年底大幅下降。今年早些时候，中国还禁止信托公司销售商业票据支持产品。尽管受到打压，人们对信托公司的兴趣有增无减。厌倦了把钱投入到表现不佳的股票和共同基金上的中国投资者纷纷转向信托公司，2011年底，信托资产管理总规模增加了58.25%，达到人民币1.67万亿元。几年前曾西方曾一度对信托公司产生过浓厚的兴趣。澳洲银行(National Australia Bank Ltd.)在2008年成为第一家进入中国信托市场的外国银行。2009年麦格理集团(Macquarie Group Ltd.)和两家国有公司创办了合资信托公司华澳国际信托有限公司(Sino-Australian International Trust Co.)。摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)在同年投资了杭州工商信托股份有限公司(Hangzhou Industrial & Commercial Trust Co.)。巴克莱银行(Barclays Bank PLC)和苏格兰皇家银行(Royal Bank of Scotland PLC)也在这个领域有投资。日本的住友信托银行(Sumitomo Trust & Banking Co.)在今年早些时候也表示希望通过向当地公司和有钱人提供金融服务和产品，在中国的信托领域有更多投资。早在2010年，它就已经在南京信托投资公司(Nanjing Trust Investment Co.)投资。
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