Alibaba’s internet fund product Yu’ebao hits setback as three major banks refuse transactions

Yu’ebao hits setback as three major banks refuse transactions

Xinhua and Staff Reporter

2014-03-07

Yu’ebao, China’s most popular internet fund product, is in hot water as three state-owned banks have reportedly halted interbank deposit business with the fund manager Tianhong, a division of Alipay.

A report on the Economic Observer’s website on Thursday said that the headquarters of the three banks have stopped accepting interbank deposit transactions between their branches and Tianhong, citing an anonymous source from one of the three banks.

“Overly high costs were given as the main reason for refusal to do business with Tianhong,” the report said, without identifying the banks. In the last couple of weeks, some voices have been calling for the closure of Yu’ebao for its “adverse impact on the real economy,” while a great number of citizens support it because of its higher yields than bank deposits.

The debate seemed to be ending when Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the central bank, said at the ongoing “Two Sessions” — China’s annual parliamentary meetings — that Yu’ebao will not banned, but regulating will be improved.

Zhou’s words came as a great relief for managers and investors of Yu’ebao and similar financial products, and makes the latest move by the banks all the more unexpected.

A source with one of the state-owned major banks, who declined to be named, told Xinhua that banks can choose whichever borrowers they like. Given that over 90% of Tianhong’s capital is invested in the interbank market, the fund’s future looks bleak if other banks follow suit.

Ding Xuemei, a senior public relations manager from Tianhong, said the fund is unaffected thus far. She said the fund makes inquiries to over 170 banks in China each day.

Yu’ebao was launched by Alibaba in June 2013 and has drawn a stunning 80 million investors, compared to around 60 million investors for China’s decades-old stock market.

Yu’ebao offers high returns but has squeezed banks’ profitability, infuriating the banks who called for a ban on internet financial products, and starting a debate over legality.

Yu’ebao’s yield has been falling since February due to liquidity in the capital market and hit 5.864% on Wednesday.

Its seven-day annualized rate stood at 4.9% in 2013, still higher than the maximum 3.3% interest rate for one-year fixed-term deposits offered by banks.

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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