Mark Mobius: China's Problems as Big as US Subprime

Mark Mobius
David Rochkind | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mark Mobius

While China's housing market problems are similar in scale to those faced during the U.S. subprime mortgage bubble and its banks are rife with bad loans, it won't lead to another Lehman-style crash, Franklin Templeton's Mark Mobius told CNBC on Monday.

Mobius said the similarities could not be denied but since Chinese banks are owned by the government, they will not be allowed to fail.

Investor fears have been heightened after a credit crunch last week led to a spike in yields on inter-bank loans. Some analysts have pointed out the credit crunch was spiked by China's central bank tightening liquidity, rather than a loss in confidence among banks.

(Read More: China's Central Bank Plays Hardball – Will It Backfire?)

Still, nervousness led to big drop in Chinese stocks on Monday, with the Shanghai Composite tumbling 5.3 percent to its lowest levels since early December.

"The perception of China is they are in the same kind of situation as the U.S., and yes it is true that a lot of loans are going to go bad, and that banks have been hiding a lot of these loans in so called trust companies," Mobius said on the sidelines of the FundForum conference of asset managers in Monaco.

"We have to ask what the consequence is, what will happen as a result, and the scenario will be very, very different in China, simply because the banks are controlled by the government, so they will not be allowed to go bankrupt."

As a result, Mobius said the liquidity problems faced by Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers at the height of the 2008 crisis won't happen in China.

Mobius manages some $53 billion in emerging market funds and has more money invested in China than in any other market.

(Read More: Goldman Joins Bandwagon, Downgrades China)

He said China has $3 trillion in foreign reserves which can be used to recapitalize the banks.

But not everyone agrees that China can make it through its current problems.

Gordon Chang, the author of "The Coming Collapse of China" told CNBC on Monday the credit crunch was a serious problem and could lead to a "catastrophic failure" in the banking system in the next six months.

"This is not so much as a liquidity crisis as a debt crisis," he told CNBC on Monday.