The establishment of four private equity funds has got the go-ahead from the country's top economic planner, according to highly-placed sources.
If, as expected, they are approved by the State Council, the funds will provide easier financial access to firms and small businesses in the energy, innovative manufacturing and high technology sectors.
The only private equity fund being operated now is the Bohai Industry Investment Fund.
According to one source, the four funds - Guangdong Nuclear Power and New Energy Fund, Shanghai Financial Fund, Shanxi Coal Fund, and Sichuan Mianyang High Technology Fund - had applied to the National Development and Reform Commission to raise 80 billion yuan ($10.3 billion), or 20 billion yuan ($2.57 billion) apiece.
Ma Jihua, deputy department head of the NDRC's Finance Department, would not comment on the issue.
However, another well-placed source said Guangdong Nuclear Power Group originally planned to apply for 10 billion yuan ($1.3 billion) but when the NDRC decided to add new energy to the list of sectors targeted to provide financing, it raised the amount to 20 billion yuan. And the name of the fund was changed from Guangdong Nuclear Power Fund to Guangdong Nuclear Power and New Energy Fund.
According to experts, the Bohai fund provides efficient fund-raising channels for firms that have difficulty acquiring bank loans in the Binhai New Area of Tianjin, an economic center in North China.
Sponsored by six domestic financial institutions and companies last December with a capital of 6 billion yuan ($773 million), the Bohai fund focuses mainly on manufacturing, transportation and energy enterprises in the Binhai New Area of Tianjin and other areas around the Bohai Bay.
In Tianjin yesterday, a senior central bank official said China should make greater efforts to develop private equity funds.
Addressing the ongoing First China International Private Equity Forum, Wu Xiaoling, vice-governor of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), said a multiple-tier capital market including private equity funds is imperative.
She said the country's capital market has "two soft ribs" - the corporate debt market and the private equity market.
According to official figures, by December 2006, investments by private equity funds in China reached 13 billion yuan ($1.67 billion).