China's central bank has rejected an Ernst & Young research report that nonperforming loans (NPLs) in the country's banking system could be as high as US$900 billion, more than five times official estimates. In a statement published on its website, the People's Bank of China said outstanding NPLs at state-owned commercial banks, stockholding commercial banks, rural commercial banks and foreign banks were US$164 billion at the end of the first quarter, down US$1.72 billion from the beginning of the year. NPLs accounted for 8% of total loans at the end of the quarter, down from 8.6% at the beginning of the year, the bank said. Bank of China's NPL ratio at the end of 2005 was 5.41%, the bank said, China Construction Bank's 3.84%, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China's 4.69% and Bank of Communications? 2.37%, compared with end-2004 ratios of 5.12%, 3.92%, 18.99% and 2.93% respectively.