【英语财经】投资者对农地流转信托寄予厚望 Investors Pin Hopes on Peaches With China’s Latest Trust Product

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2014-5-19 17:10

小艾摘要: In the already opaque world of trust products, China is pushing the boundaries of what investors can bet on. Wuxi's shui mi tao, which locals claim to be the most delicious peaches on earth thanks to ...
Investors Pin Hopes on Peaches With China's Latest Trust Product
In the already opaque world of trust products, China is pushing the boundaries of what investors can bet on.

Wuxi's shui mi tao, which locals claim to be the most delicious peaches on earth thanks to their juiciness and softness, aren't just for eating anymore. State-owned trust firm Beijing International Trust Co. recently figured out a way to launch a product tied to 160 acres of peach orchards in a little village located in Wuxi, about an hour and a half by train west of Shanghai.

Together with the local government, the trust firm convinced 233 villagers to give up their land rights for the next 15 years for an annual income of 1,700 yuan ($272.4) per acre, according to the China Business News. After the first six years, the report said, the villagers will get additional income in the form of a cut from returns on the land. The trust firm and contractor, hired to manage the land professionally, also get a cut of the returns.

Such bets on rural land are fairly recent.

The idea is that consolidating a big swath of land and hiring one agricultural company to manage it will make the land yield more than it would under a bunch of individual farmers. Extra capital could conceivably go towards buying fertilizer, improving irrigation or other efforts to further increase returns on land, eventually benefiting investors as well, the theory goes.

In the meantime, peachy trusts can -- it's thought -- also help aid China's plans to urbanize. Many villagers, the paper noted, don't even farm anymore. 'Returns from the peaches aren't bad, but young people don't want to put in the work. They prefer the city life, and that's put a stop to the planting,' village part secretary Zhou Jianfeng told the paper.

China's trust products invest in everything from traditional products like stocks to loans for businesses shunned by banks, or even construction loans for heavily indebted local governments. They make up a growing chunk of China's unregulated shadow banking system: Between 2007 and 2012, they grew sevenfold.

Though the peach selling point might be novel, this isn't the first time firms offering trust products have tried using land rights as a way to entice investors. Last October, Citic Trust Co. launched the first trust product backed by rural land rights, which involved 360 hectares of land that were leased from farmers in eastern Anhui province. That product had a similar duration of 12 years, although it wasn't clear what the land was being used to farm. This March, Citic Trust and the government of Huanggang city also agreed to cooperate on a Longganghu land pilot area for land trust reform. The parties mapped out six million acres, the largest ever single land transfer trust project Citic Trust had undertaken, according to a report by 21 Century Herald.

Trusts generate cash to pay their investors, so the more lucrative the underlying asset, the better. In its breakdown of what trusts are investing in, government-backed industry group China Trustee Association found that roughly 28% are backing construction businesses, about 25% are backing what the group classifies as 'basic industries' and 10.4% have put their money in property. Stocks and bonds take up a smaller fraction of 2.8% and 7.4%.

Last year, a Shanghai Daily editorial touted rural land transfer trusts as a way to give farmers a stable means of income. Such trusts, it said, are part of a national effort to establish a more transparent rural property market. While farmers don't own land in China, in the last decade they have been increasingly allowed to mortgage or transfer rights to use their land.

But how the peach-backed trusts will pan out for investors is unclear. Sure, the peaches taste great (we've tried them), but that doesn't mean producers can necessarily succeed in exporting the fruit to far-flung areas with the highest demand. The peaches don't have a long shelf life and can get bruised easily, yielding nothing more than a rotten mess.

And then there's the question of how well the land will be managed, as well as uncontrollable factors like the weather. 'If the land is not productive then it's valueless,' says Lee Chong Min of CMIA Capital Partners, a Singapore-based private equity firm investing in Chinese food agricultural businesses, including makers of farming equipment. 'Agriculture businesses are not easy--prices can be volatile and production price margins aren't high,' he says. 'It can be volume game.'

Beijing International Trust doesn't disclose what it pays investors and didn't respond to requests for comment.

Trust products in China often promise annual returns up to 10%, which have enticed investors away from more traditional options like wealth management products, stocks, bank deposits and even property. But worries are growing that some trusts won't be able to pay back investors, as a slowing economy puts pressure on companies taking out the loans underlying the products. Trust firms haven't seen a major bust yet, but analysts say the increasing complexity of the assets they back--sometimes involving a number of different assets classes, including peaches and land rights in this case--would make resolving a potential default much more complicated.

Zuma Press占地667公顷的四川桃花公园吸引了众多游客。
信托业本就是一个不太透明的市场,而中国又设计出了新产品

无锡的水蜜桃因汁水足和口感软被当地人称为世上最好吃的桃子,而现在水蜜桃不再仅仅限于食用。国有信托公司北京国际信托有限公司(Beijing International Trust Co.,简称:北京信托)近来推出了一款与无锡一个小村庄160亩桃园相关的信托产品。无锡位于上海以西,乘火车约一个半小时到达。

《第一财经日报》(China Business News)报道,在当地政府的参与下,233户村民在今后15年将他们的土地以信托财产委托给北京信托,每亩每年可获得人民币1,700元(合272.4美元)的收入。这则报道称,六年后,村民还将获得这些土地回报的额外分成。北京信托和负责管理这些土地的专业承包公司也将获得土地回报分成。

针对农用地土地流转的信托产品是最近才出现的。

设计这类信托产品的理念是:整合一大片土地,聘请一家农业公司来管理这片土地,获得的收益要高于一群个体农户种植产生的收益。可能还需要额外的投入来购买肥料,改进灌溉或采取进一步提高土地回报的其它措施,而投资者最终也能获益。

与此同时,据信水蜜桃信托产品还有助于中国推进城镇化。报道指出,很多村民已经不再种田。桃园村村支书周建峰告诉《第一财经日报》:“种植水蜜桃的收入不差,但年轻人已经不愿意吃苦,他们更喜欢城市生活,桃树种植出现了断层。”

中国的信托产品投资对象包括股票等传统产品,也包括银行尽量回避的企业贷款,甚至是向负债累累的地方政府提供的建设贷款。信托产品在中国未受监管的影子银行系统中所占的比例越来越大:2007-2012年,信托产品的规模扩大了六倍。

尽管以水蜜桃作为卖点可能十分新奇,但这并不是信托产品销售公司首次以土地承包经营权来吸引投资者。去年10月份,中信信托投资有限责任公司(CITIC Trust & Investment Co.)推出国内首只农村土地承包经营权流转信托计划,涉及中国东部省份安徽省的流转土地面积达360公顷(合3.6平方千米或5400亩)。该产品的信托期限为12年,但不清楚这些土地将被用于种植何种作物。今年3月份,中信信托和黄冈市政府就共建龙感湖土地信托化改革试验区签署合作协议。据《21世纪经济报道》称,双方划定的流转土地的总面积达到6万亩,是中信信托组建的规模最大的单只农村土地承包经营权流转信托。

信托通过创造现金来回报投资者,所以基础资产利润越丰厚就越好。在对信托投资对象的分析中,政府支持的行业组织中国信托业协会(China Trustee Association)发现,约28%的信托投资于建设业务,大约25%的信托投资于基础产业,10.4%投资于房地产。股票和债券投资比例分别为2.8%和7.4%。

去年,《上海日报》(Shanghai Daily)的一篇社论提出将农村土地流转信托作为给予农民稳定收入来源的途径。文章说,这种信托是国家建立更透明的农村地产市场努力的一部分。虽然中国的土地并不归农民所有,但过去10年中,农民越来越多地被允许抵押或转让土地的使用权。

但是以桃园为标的的信托产品对投资者来说是福是祸还不清楚。桃子的确是美味(我们尝过),但并不意味着种植者一定能把这些水果运到需求量最大但很远的地方。桃子保鲜期不长,很容易碰伤,最终只留下一堆腐烂的垃圾。

另外,这块土地能否得到妥善管理也是个问题,而且还要考虑天气等不确定因素的影响。投资于农用设备生产商等中国粮农企业的新加坡私募股权公司CMIA Capital Partners的Lee Chong Min说,如果这片土地产量不高,那就毫无价值。他说,农业经营并非易事,价格波动可能很剧烈,生产利润率也不高,可能要以量取胜。

北京国际信托没有披露其向投资者支付的价格,也没有回应置评请求。

中国的信托产品通常承诺最高10%的年回报率,一些原本投资理财产品、股票、银行存款甚至房地产等传统领域的投资者已被吸引过来。但随着经济增长减缓给一些企业带来压力(这些企业所借的贷款正是信托产品的基础),人们越来越担心一些信托无力偿付投资者。信托公司尚未出现大规模崩溃,但分析人士认为,由于信托公司支持的资产越来越复杂(有时涉及多种不同的资产类别,包括此次的桃园和土地权利),解决潜在的违约将会更加困难。

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