【英语财经】美国投资者青睐亚洲公司债券 US develops a taste for Asian bonds

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2014-6-24 06:49

小艾摘要: Debt bankers in Hong Kong and Singapore are having more and more late nights. But rather than wasting the twilight hours at the local drinking hole, many are stuck at their desks waiting for a call fr ...
US develops a taste for Asian bonds
Debt bankers in Hong Kong and Singapore are having more and more late nights. But rather than wasting the twilight hours at the local drinking hole, many are stuck at their desks waiting for a call from the other side of the Pacific. The reason: success or failure of Asian bond sales – which used to be a predominantly local affair – is increasingly influenced by appetite from credit investors in the US.

China’s Baidu was among the first Asian borrowers to capitalise on interest from US investors. It sold $1.5bn of bonds directly to US-based funds in late 2012. It had the natural advantage of being a New York-listed company in a sector well known and understood by local portfolio managers: internet search. Such deals are still rare, but it signalled the beginning of an important, if slow, shift in the development of Asia’s debt markets.

Most Asian bond sales involve a significant local element – often domestic life insurers and pension funds – and usually a sizeable European leg. Few companies have been able to copy Baidu’s example and sell a US-only deal, as defined by the type of regulatory regime a bond is designed for. A US deal must meet “144a” legal standards, while European and Asian sales require “Reg S” regulations.

Most issuers choose to adopt both frameworks in order to maximise their chances of getting a better price and broadening their investor bases, according to Hital Desai, a director in Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s debt syndicate.

Even so, the longer-term trend is becoming clear: US investors are taking a bigger slice of certain types of Asian debt.

Estimates by Bank of America Merrill Lynch show the proportion of bonds going to US funds for South Korean financials in particular has doubled in the past year, and now accounts for more than half the total demand. South Korean companies have a special attraction – they are treated by some investors as developed market products rather than as emerging market investments. Yet, partly because MSCI, the index provider, still marks Korea as an emerging market, investors will typically get higher coupons for credits rated at the same level as western counterparts. Even when the pickup is small, it has been enough to entice funds at a time of low rates globally.

“So long as rates in the short end [of the curve] are zero, investors are going to be keen to deploy cash and look for that extra basis point wherever they can find it,” says Herman van den Wall Bake, head of Asian fixed income capital markets at Deutsche Bank.

“Because spreads in the US and Europe have come in so far so quickly, the relative value proposition [of Asian debt] for these investors is that much more compelling,” he says.

Away from the Korean example, there are certain sectors that are likely to find the going easier in the US. Technology companies, many of which are listed on the Nasdaq or NYSE, will often find a more willing audience for their debt. Tencent recently sold $2.5bn of bonds, which drew strong interest from US funds and helped the Chinese online gaming developer achieve a record low spread over Treasuries. Similarly, Bharti Airtel, the telecommunications group, was able to sell India’s largest ever corporate bond deal in May this year, in part thanks to strong US demand.

Energy companies also have appeal. State-owned Chinese oil producers such as Cnooc and Sinopec have been among the busiest borrowers in Asia’s bond markets for a number of years. US investors find an easy read across from the likes of ExxonMobil or Chevron, giving them greater comfort in buying their bonds, say bankers.

Increased US involvement has been one factor helping to push Asian bond issuance to record highs this year. April was the busiest ever month for Asian debt sales, which breached the $100bn level in early June, according to Dealogic, the data provider. That puts 2014 on track for a full-year record, topping last year’s total of $150bn.

But it is not a one-way street for all borrowers. Those in sectors without a strong point of comparison are struggling to make headway Stateside.

Chinese property developers are an obvious example. The housing market in China is largely policy driven, putting the fortunes of the companies in the sector in the hands of government officials. Keeping up with the twists and turns of sentiment towards the sector – much of which is listed in Hong Kong – makes for an unappealing proposition.

Financials too could find it hard to break America. Chinese banks are mostly state owned, and are often used as tools of government policy. In 2009 China launched a massive stimulus package to help rescue the economy from the fallout of the financial crisis in the west. That caused much wasteful investment, largely funded by the banks. The bill for this has yet to be quantified.

香港和新加坡的债务银行家们现在晚上加班的频度越来越高了。许多人在暮色沉沉时不是泡酒吧,而是仍在办公桌旁等待太平洋彼岸的电话。这是因为,以往主要是当地事务的亚洲债券发售,如今其成功与否日益受到美国信贷投资者需求的影响。

中国的百度(Baidu)是第一批利用美国投资者兴趣的亚洲债券发行公司之一。2012年底,百度直接向美国境内的基金售出了15亿美元的债券。百度有一个天然优势,它是一家在美国纽约上市的公司,所处的互联网搜索行业也是美国的投资组合经理们非常熟悉和了解的。此类交易仍不多见,但它标志着亚洲债务市场发展过程中一项重要(即便缓慢)变化的开端。

大多数亚洲债券发售的买主包括相当高的当地机构(往往是国内寿险公司和养老基金),通常也有数量可观的欧洲机构参与。很少有哪家公司能像百度那样仅仅针对美国市场销售,遵守监管制度所定义的债券类型。在美国发债必须满足“144a”规则的法律标准,而在欧洲和亚洲销售需要符合“Reg S”规定。

美林美银(BofAML)银团贷款主管西塔尔·德赛(Hital Desai)表示,大多数发债公司选择同时采纳这两套框架,以尽最大可能获得更高价格,并拓宽投资者基础。

即便如此,更长期的趋势变得日益明显:美国投资者购买某些类型亚洲债券的比例越来越高。

美林美银的估算显示,过去一年,韩国金融企业债券被美国基金买走的比例提高了一倍,如今已占到总需求的一半以上。韩国公司债券具有特别的吸引力——它们被一些投资者视为发达市场产品,而不是新兴市场投资。然而,部分因为指数提供商摩根士丹利资本国际(MSCI)仍把韩国列为新兴市场,投资者购买与西方同类公司评级相同的韩国公司的债券时,通常将享受更高的票面利率。即使差别不大,但在如今全球低利率的时代,这对基金产生的吸引力也足够大。

“只要(收益率曲线)短端利率为零,投资者就将急切地配置现金,寻找在哪里能多获得一个基点的收益,”德意志银行(Deutsche Bank)亚洲固定收益资本市场部门负责人赫尔曼?范登?沃尔?贝克(Herman van den Wall Bake)表示。

他表示:“由于美国和欧洲的利差这么快就达到这样的水平,如今(亚洲债务的)相对价值主张对这些投资者具有大得多的吸引力。”

除了韩国的例子外,还有某些行业的公司发债可能易于吸引美国投资者。科技公司——其中许多已在纳斯达克(Nasdaq)或纽约证券交易所(NYSE)挂牌上市——发债时,往往更容易引起美国投资者的兴趣。中国在线游戏开发商腾讯(Tencent)不久前发债25亿美元,受到美国基金的热烈追捧,帮助其债券相对于美国国债的利差达到了创纪录低位。类似的,部分因为美国的需求强劲,印度电信集团Bharti Airtel今年5月完成了印度企业史上规模最大的一笔债券发售。

能源公司也有吸引力。多年来,中海油(Cnooc)和中石化(Sinopec)等中国国有石油生产商一直处于亚洲债券市场上发债最频繁的企业之列。银行家们说,由于有埃克森美孚(ExxonMobil)和雪佛龙(Chevron)等公司作为参照,美国投资者发现很容易读懂能源公司,在购买它们的债券时也感到更为放心。

美国投资者参与增多是今年亚洲债券发行额创下纪录的助推因素之一。数据提供商Dealogic的资料显示,4月是亚洲债券发行史上最繁忙的一个月,截至6月上旬总发行额已突破1000亿美元大关。这意味着2014年亚洲债券全年发行额有望刷新去年1500亿美元的的纪录。

但并非所有发行公司都有这样的好运。在美国投资者找不到靠谱参照点的行业,企业很难在美国市场打开局面。

中国房地产开发商就是一个明显的例子。中国住房市场主要是政策市,开发商的命运掌握在政府官员手中。要跟上这个板块的企业(大多数在香港上市)在市场上的跌宕起伏,不是一个有吸引力的投资主张。

金融企业也可能发现自己的债券难以打入美国市场。中国的银行多为国有银行,经常被政府用作政策工具。2009年,中国推出了一项大规模的刺激一揽子计划,以帮助中国经济摆脱西方金融危机的影响。这导致了重大的投资浪费,而资金主要是由银行提供的。这些浪费还没有量化出来。

译者/邢嵬

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