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China's Banking System Still Faces Major Challenges


A leading credit ratings agency says China's banking system still faces major challenges and India's largest coffee growing company has bought a U.S. coffee brand.

A study by international credit ratings agency Standard and Poor's says banks in Asia are generally stable and enjoy steady income growth, but China's banking system still faces significant challenges.

Ryan Tsang, a Hong Kong-based credit analyst for the company, says while banking fundamentals in China have generally improved in recent years, the risk management system of Chinese banks is still vulnerable.

"The rapidly changing business environment and rapid loan growth could stretch the risk management system in China and the rather high corporate gearing and the overcapacity could bring new problem loans to the banking system," said Tsang.

The study was launched in the same week as financial irregularities came to light at two Chinese banks. The Chinese government said auditors uncovered fraud cases totaling more than $1 billion at the Agricultural Bank of China, one of the country's biggest state-owned commercial banks.

And China's CITIC bank, which is planning to list in Hong Kong this year, uncovered an internal theft of five million dollars.

India's largest coffee growing company, Tata Coffee, has bought the popular U.S. brand Eight O' Clock Coffee for $220 million. Eight O' Clock Coffee is the third largest brand by volume in the United States.

Tata Coffee officials say the acquisition will help the Indian company gain a foothold in the U.S. market and become an international player in the coffee industry.

Australia's largest steelmaker, Onesteel Limited, has launched a one-point-six billion dollar friendly takeover of rival Smorgan Steel. The merger is expected to take place in October and will create Australia's biggest steel company.

Japan's jobless rate hit an eight-year low in May. The unemployment rate dropped to four percent from 4.1 percent a month earlier, the lowest rate since 1998.

And Japan's core consumer price index in May rose point six percent from a year earlier, the seventh straight monthly gain. The increase suggests an easing of deflationary pressure in the country.