China's Wuhan finance regulator urges hundreds of firms to repay debt -local media

Boat moves on Yangzte River in Wuhan

BEIJING (Reuters) - The financial regulator of China's Wuhan city publicly exposed 259 firms with debt to the government and urged them to immediately pay up, local media reported on Saturday.

The rare action from Wuhan's finance bureau on Friday comes as local governments in China become increasingly pressed by higher debt and expenses. Wuhan was the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2019.

The borrowed funds ranged from just over 10,000 yuan to more than 10 million yuan ($1.45 million), with the total amount exceeding 100 million yuan ($14.47 million), Yicai reported, citing a debt collection list jointly published by the regulator and Wuhan Yangtze River Asset Management Co.

Debtors include district finance bureaus, scientific research units, state-owned enterprises, units of listed companies as well as private firms, according to a screenshot of the list shared by Yicai.

The debtors, their corresponding guarantors and successors were requested to repay their debts to the asset management firm immediately after May 26, Yicai reported.

State-owned Wuhan Yangtze River Asset Management Co is a professional platform responsible for the disposal of various non-performing assets in the central city, according to its official website.

It is delegated to recover the above-mentioned borrowed funds for the government to the maximum extent, Yicai reported.

Like most places in China, Wuhan government's revenue has taken a big hit in recent years weighed down by COVID, a faltering economy and a prolonged property crash.

Wuhan's local budget revenue slid 8.5% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2023, according to data released by local the finance bureau.

($1 = 6.9121 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Ella Cao and Bernard Orr; editing by Clelia Oziel)