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Investors less than impressed by CDs

Large-denomination certificates of deposit made their market debut on Monday, but they got an unenthusiastic reception from many individual and corporate bank customers, who were less than impressed by the combination of low returns and high minimum investments.

Nine major banks, [Company Incorporation USA] including five large State-owned lenders, started issuing CDs with a minimum denomination of 300,000 yuan ($48,330) for individuals and 10 million yuan for companies.

The rates, however, are just slightly higher than those for similar-maturity depositsand far below the annualized returns on wealth management products and high profits from the yuan-denominated A-share market.

Banks offered varied terms. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd, the nation's largest lender by assets, set its one-year CD rate at 3.06 percent, compared with a one-year deposit rate of 2.5 percent. China CITIC Bank Corp Ltd, a mid-sized commercial lender, set its one-year CD rate at 3.15 percent, compared with its one-year deposit rate of 2.75 percent.

At an ICBC branch in Beijing, a retired woman in her 60s who declined to be identified, said: "The one-year interest rates for CDs are too low. I prefer buying funds because the stock market is so bullish these days. Besides, the 300,000 yuan threshold is a bit too high for the general public."

A similar investor said: "I'm more interested in wealth management products, many of which offer annualized returns exceeding 5 percent."

Corporate clients were also cool. Li Zijian, chairman of Zhejiang Ruolai Trading Co Ltd in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, said: "I don't think many small and medium-sized enterprises will put 10 million yuan into large-denomination certificates of deposit as they need that money for working capital."

He said that larger companies with spare cash would probably put the money into projects that offer higher returns than CDs.

Individual clients are not the major target market for CDs. A bank executive told the Shanghai-based China Business News that of the CD issue quota his bank reported to the central bank, less than 20 percent was allocated to individuals.

A clerk with ICBC said the bank plans to issue 200 million yuan worth of CDs to individuals in Beijing. That is a fairly small amount that could easily be sold, he said.

Another clerk with China Construction Bank Corp, the second-largest lender by assets, said it will issue about 400 million yuan of CDs to individuals in the capital.

CDs are non-transferable but can be used as loan collateral, according to several banks. An employee from the ICBC call center said the bank will accept CDs as collateral for loans of 5,000 to 25 million yuan. The maximum loan is 90 percent of the CDs' value.

China CITIC Bank, however, said it does not allow this practice at present. By 5 pm on Monday, the bank had sold 369 million yuan of CDs to individuals and 4.69 billion yuan to companies. Its one-year worth of CDs for companies, with a quota of 1 billion yuan, [Hong Kong Company Registration Guide]were sold out.

Most of the nine banks said they would only allow one early redemption per CD, and then only if the balance exceeds the minimum denomination. Otherwise, investors must withdraw their entire investment in a CD.

They will receive interest at the bank's demand deposit rate for the money withdrawn.


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