Bad loans at Chinese banks will rise to “shockingly high” levels, eroding profits and slowing growth in the world’s second-biggest economy, said Vontobel Asset Management Inc.’s Rajiv Jain, who runs some of this year’s best-performing mutual funds.
China’s local governments are struggling to repay their debt and “frothy” real-estate markets may leave banks exposed to falling prices, Jain said in an Aug. 16 phone interview. While valuations on Chinese banks have dropped to the lowest levels since October 2008, Jain said the shares aren’t cheap enough to buy because the lenders’ leverage is too high and earnings are likely to disappoint investors.
The Chinese economy “will slow down, but these companies should still be able to grow,” said Jain. “We are bearish but we don’t feel there’s a meltdown coming.”