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China Considers Transfer of State-owned Shares to National Pension Fund

China is studying the possibility of transferring state-owned shares in listed firms to the national pension fund, the State Assets Supervision and Administration Commission confirmed to Xinhua Friday.


The commission in a recent circular asked local branches to study the potential impact of such a move.


The proposal is to transfer 10 percent of state-owned shares in listed firms held by both the central and local governments to the national pension fund, or the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).


Established in the year 2000, the NSSF's assets were worth 1.8 trillion yuan (about US$230.44 billion) at the end of 2005, according to figures provided by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.


The NSSF has been in dire need of funds since its inception. People who retired before the fund was established have no money in their pension accounts, so the NSSF has to pay their monthly pensions from money contributed by those who are stilling working.


With the rapid aging of China's 1.3 billion population, this poses a serious financial threat to the NSSF.


In 2004, the Ministry of Finance, the NSSF and the state assets authority established a group to study the transfer of state-owned shares to the pension fund.


Analysts, however, warned that transferring shares to the pension fund may result in the state losing control over the firms concerned.


The risk is increased by the fact that most listed firms have changed formally non-tradable state-owned shares into tradable shares, analysts said.


Instead of transferring shares, it might be more prudent for state-controlled listed firms to transfer a portion of their dividends to the pension fund, Chinese economist Wu Jinglian suggested.


Analysts agreed this might be a better option.


(Xinhua News Agency September 29, 2006)

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