【英语中国】Lex专栏:中国拆除“利率长城”

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2013-12-24 09:20

小艾摘要: Little fuss has been made over the first US dollar bond from Baosteel, China’s biggest listed steelmaker, sold this month. One of the best steel company credits in the world, Baosteel still paid clos ...
Little fuss has been made over the first US dollar bond from Baosteel, China’s biggest listed steelmaker, sold this month. One of the best steel company credits in the world, Baosteel still paid close to 4 per cent to borrow $500m with its Hong Kong issue. But the bond will be priced off US Treasuries, not China’s local interest rates – and that may be worth its weight in gold to Baosteel, even in a time of Federal Reserve tapering. Even good Chinese companies face a tougher interest-rate environment and higher capital costs in 2014. This is worth fussing over.

Few would have expected 2013 to be a year in which China’s central bank raised interest rates by 75 bps, despite one of the biggest slowdowns in the country’s economic growth for some time (to a mere 7.5 per cent). The People’s Bank of China was more concerned with irrepressible growth in broad money, which is likely to rise 15 per cent this year, above the PBOC’s target.

Of course, the reddest flag might seem to be waving in short-term credit markets. Shanghai’s stock market shed 5 per cent this week, and fell nine days in a row for the first time since 1994, after the seven-day repo rate (the best measure of short-term interbank liquidity) spiked past 7 per cent. The PBOC is tightening here, too, much as it did in June. But both episodes were salved with central bank liquidity, once a lesson was taught to banks to lend carefully.

Moves by the PBOC slowly to liberalise interest rates will be harder to put back into their box. These include the introduction of certificates of deposit in interbank lending, which track three-month Shibor, a more market-determined benchmark that rose by 1.5 percentage points in 2013. This will feed through to corporate loans, while corporate bond pricing will also factor in a doubling in bill financing rates (to 8 per cent) in 2013, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“It is not that there is no money, but the money has been put in the wrong place,” as state media said of the PBOC’s June tightening. There is a lot of that money in Chinese companies: they have an average debt-to-equity ratio of 110 per cent, according to the IMF. The ratio in India is 80 per cent. So welcome, at last, to market-priced credit risk in China. More Chinese companies could follow the lead of Baosteel and issue in US dollars. But for those who cannot, strap in: it is going to be a bumpy 2014.

本月,中国最大的上市钢铁企业宝钢(Baosteel)首次在香港发行了5亿美元的美元债券。此事并未引起多少关注。尽管这批债券是全球信用质量最高的钢铁企业债券之一,宝钢仍将票面利率定在接近于4%的水平。不过,这批债券的定价基准是美国国债收益率,而非中国国内利率——此举对宝钢来说可能价值连城,尽管美联储(Fed)即将逐渐缩减量化宽松。2014年,即便是那些优质的中国企业,也要面临更严峻的利率环境和更高的资金成本。这才是值得关注的事情。

如今,中国央行更担心的是广义货币增长失控——今年的增速很可能达到15%,高于该行的目标。

当然,最危险的信号似乎出现在短期信贷市场。上周,上海股市下滑5%,自1994年以来首次连续9日下跌。此前,7天期回购利率(衡量短期银行间流动性的最佳指标)一度窜升至7%上方。就像今年6月的情况一样,中国央行这次又在收紧货币供应。但在这两次风险信号中,商业银行一得到需要谨慎放贷的教训,中国央行就随即注入流动性缓解了局势。

随着中国央行采取种种举措慢慢放开利率管制,走回头路将变得更加困难。这些举措包括,推出追踪3月期上海银行间同业拆放利率(Shibor)的银行间同业存单。Shibor是一种更加市场化的基准,2013年迄今上升了1.5个百分点。这将对企业贷款产生影响,美银美林(Bank of America Merrill Lynch)数据显示,企业债券的定价也将考虑2013年票据融资利率翻一番(至8%)的因素。

中国官方媒体在谈及中国央行6月紧缩之举时称:“不是没钱,而是放错了地方。”大量放错了地方的钱是在中国企业手中:国际货币基金组织(IMF)数据显示,中国企业的债务股本比率平均为110%。印度企业的这一比率为80%。所以说,中国终于迎来了由市场定价的信贷风险。可能会有更多的中国企业效仿宝钢发行美元债券。但那些办不到这点的企业请系好安全带:2014年的道路肯定会比较颠簸。

Lex专栏是由FT评论家联合撰写的短评,对全球经济与商业进行精辟分析

译者/邢嵬

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