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Furious Chinese investors lodge complaints over trust firm’s missed payments

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BEIJING (Reuters) – Angry investors in trust products of a leading Chinese shadow bank have lodged complaint letters with regulators, pleading with the authorities to step in after the big Chinese trust firm missed payments on dozens of investment products.

Zhongrong International Trust Co., which managed assets worth $108 billion at end-2022, has missed payments on dozens of products since late last month, raising fears that China’s financial system may be at risk of contagion from a prolonged property market crisis and a rapidly slowing economy.

Investors who are owed money by Zhongrong urged the National Financial Regulatory Administration (NFRA), the new financial regulator, and the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, to intervene, according to the letters sent to the agencies and seen by Reuters.

Zhongrong has missed payments on at least 22 products since July 28, with an outstanding value of about 160 billion yuan to 200 billion yuan ($21.96 billion-$27.43 billion) and involving nearly 30,000 investors, according to the letter sent to the NFRA.

Two investors, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter, confirmed the contents of the letters. It was not clear how many investors had petitioned the regulators.

Zhongrong and the two regulators didn’t immediately reply to Reuters’ requests for comment.

“We hope to get the attention and the support of the state, to urge Zhongrong Trust to candidly respond to concerns of its clients,” said the letter addressed to the NFRA and dated Thursday.

“Every day, a large number of people gathered at business departments of Zhongrong Trust are praying for the firm can give an explanation to investors … investors are immersed in unlimited horror and fear every day.”

Its parent Zhongzhi Enterprise Group, which raises money from firms and the wider public and is reported to manage $137 billion in assets, has told investors it needs to revamp debt as it faces a liquidity crisis, Reuters reported on Thursday.

In the letter to the NFRA, investors demanded that Zhongrong provide reports of the underlying assets of defaulted products. It has traditionally had sizable exposure to real estate — a sector that has been roiled by growing debts and defaults since 2021.

The investors also demanded Zhongrong immediately give a written statement to explain the situation and when the overdue products can be repaid.

“We hope officials can attach great attention to Zhongrong Trust … and not let this to become a milestone vicious economic event,” the letter sent to the NFRA said.

In the letter to the CCDI, investors complained that management of Zhongrong failed to fulfill their responsibilities and caused huge losses to investors.

($1 = 7.2941 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Ziyi Tang and Ryan Woo; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Kim Cogill)

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