It should surprise nobody that when it comes to perpetuating the global central bank “put”, China – which is at daily danger of having its house of trillions in non-performing loan card collapse at any moment – has perfected moral hazard better than any western central banker. However, even the staunchest cynics will be stunned by the latest development out of the Shanghai government where starting next month, venture capital firms which invested in high-tech startups since the beginning of 2015 can apply for government compensation if their investment loses money.
In other words, while until now the government had bailed out corporate bond and bank loan investors, and was actively micromanaging the burst stock bubble (unsuccessfully), it will now enter the venture capital and private equity arena in what may be the grossest misallocation of capital unleashed by China to date.
The policy is laid out in a regulation dated December 29 that the city’s Science and Technology Commission put on its website on January 21. Under the regulation, if the sale of a VC’s stake in a startup fails to cover its original investment, it can ask the government for a payout amounting to 30 or 60 percent of the shortfall depending on the size and revenue of the firm it backed.
The most any VC firm can receive in one year is 6 million yuan. The limit on individual investment projects is 3 million yuan although we are confident both these limitations will be breached grossly and repeatedly.
Shanghai is not the first Chinese city to implement this lunacy: an investor with a financial institution in Shanghai said the city did not invent the idea of subsidizing high-risk private financial investment. Other local governments in China have implemented similar rules but none of them offer quite as much compensation, he said.
With other local governments it was more of an ad hoc arrangement, he said. “You go to the government’s public finance bureau, asking for money, and they will tell you to wait as they go over their budget. Usually they’ll return and say there are no funds left, so you’ll have to wait until the next year and see.”
According to Caixin, the payout offer is intended to encourage private VC investment to support innovation and the development of Shanghai as a global high-tech center, the document says. The policy is to last for two years.
Of course, what it will encourage instead is another round of massive fraud, and investing in idiotic projects that have zero hope of recovery let alone return, because when one is spending with a full government backstop – like during episodes of QE – the last thing one cares about is trivial concepts like “risk.” There is only the guarantee of return and as Allan Meltzer put it best, “Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin. It doesn’t work.”
What it does do is assure that an even greater bust will take place once this particular bubble bursts, however in the process billions in taxpayer funds will be “allocated” to a handful of individuals who will promptly abuse China’s capital controls and end up purchasing luxury apartments in Manhattan.
Surprisingly, instead of keeping their mouth shut and just accepting the government’s risk-free money, some have dared to speak out against this idea which can only be classified as sheer idiocy:
The idea will have a “disastrous” impact on the principles of the capital market, said Andrew Y. Yan, managing partner of private equity investment firm SAIF Partners.
“A fundamental principle of the market economy is the match between risk and return,” he said. “VC investments are extremely risky and limited to only a very few people and institutions. The negative consequences of using public money to compensate investment losses will be unimaginable.”
Xie Zuoqiang, vice president of the PE firm Prosperity Investment, said the new policy provides no clear standards and procedures on calculating losses, leaving loopholes that can be abused to cheat tax payers’ money. He also said the two-year life of the regulation creates uncertainties because VC investments often last longer than that. “The policy may be well-intentioned,” he said, “but supporting an industry is a long-term initiative.”
Actually the policy is beyond idiotic, however it is clearly designed to enrich a handful of “venture capitalists” who like U.S. bankers have purchased local government puppets to do their bidding for them.
That said, there may be a silver lining: very soon the infamous “zero-corn” Theranos may liquidate in the US only to be reconsistuted in Shanghai, where its fraud will guarantee massive taxpayer funds are spent to boost the bank accounts of every criminal involved.