By Yifan Xie and Mia Lamar
SHANGHAI — A fund owned by China’s foreign-exchange regulator has been taking stakes in some of the country’s biggest banks, raising speculation that it may be a new member of the so-called “national team” of investors the Chinese government unleashes to support its stock market.
Wutongshu Investment Platform Co., a little-known unit of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, has popped up repeatedly over the past week on lists of top shareholders of various banks and brokerages as those companies reported annual financial results and shareholding changes.
Among the Chinese lenders in which Wutongshu took a major stake during the last quarter of 2015 were Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/209359942/delayed CN:601988 0.00% , Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Co. /zigman2/quotes/204296742/delayed CN:600000 +0.25% , Bank of Communications Co. /zigman2/quotes/207155262/delayed CN:601328 +0.18% and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202525815/delayed CN:601398 -1.62% , China’s largest lender by assets, according to the banks’ annual reports and a corporate filing.
All told, Wutongshu and two subsidiaries bought shares valued at more than 27 billion yuan (US$4.2 billion) during the fourth quarter, according to state-owned Shanghai Securities News.
The share purchases make Wutongshu a prime candidate for the national team, a secretive group of state entities that is deployed to buy Chinese stocks — often big blue chips — when the market tanks.