SHANGHAI/BENGALURU (Reuters) - Debt growth for Chinese companies has slowed to the lowest rate in more than a decade, according to Reuters analysis, which could provide relief for policymakers worried about the fallout from years of loose lending practices across the economy.

A man stands on the Bund in front of Shanghai's financial district of Pudong in Shanghai, China February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

But this growing caution about taking on new debt, along with tighter profit margins and slowing revenue growth, could point to rising risks facing the world’s second largest economy amid fears of a slowing growth.

The overall debt levels of Chinese companies grew three percent in the first quarter of this year, according to analysis by Reuters of 1,843 firms listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen, the slowest pace in at least 13 years.

Combined total debts - including borrowing via loans and bond issuances - amounted to 13.2 trillion yuan ($2.1 trillion) at the end of March, the slowest pace of growth year-on-year since at least 2005, the analysis showed.

That amount was down 6.2 percent from the fourth quarter, a steep drop after companies ramped up leverage during 2017.

For a graphic on China firms' net profit margin, click reut.rs/2Lnvddc

Revenue growth, meanwhile, more than halved to 12.3 percent in the first three months of 2018 from 26.7 percent a year ago. Net profit margins were also squeezed to their lowest level in two years, with sectors like information technology particularly hard hit.

“What it says to me is that many of these companies are quite cautious in terms of expansion and taking on new debt,” said Christopher Lee, Hong Kong-based managing director for corporate ratings at S&P Global, referring to the data.


Read more from our friends at Reuters: