【英语中国】煤炭巨头偿债困境凸显中国信托风险

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所属分类:双语中国

2013-12-19 09:01

小艾摘要: Chinese mining boss who threw a multimillion-dollar wedding for his daughter last year is now struggling under a pile of debts that threaten to trigger a major default in the country’s shadow banking ...
Chinese mining boss who threw a multimillion-dollar wedding for his daughter last year is now struggling under a pile of debts that threaten to trigger a major default in the country’s shadow banking industry.

Until a few weeks ago Xing Libin was known as the wealthiest man in Liulin, a county in northern China that struck it rich over the past decade thanks to bulging coal deposits. Looking more like a tousled professor than a slick tycoon, Mr Xing acquired mining rights for what local media said was “the price of a cabbage” and built his unlisted company, Liansheng Resources Group, into a big player in the Chinese coal industry.

Mr Xing put his success on display in March 2012 at a Rmb70m ($11m) party to jointly celebrate his daughter’s wedding and his company’s 10th anniversary. He rented three aircraft to fly family and friends to the resort island of Hainan, brought in pop stars for a gala concert and assembled a fleet of six Ferraris for the wedding procession.

But since then the slowing Chinese economy and plunging price of coal have dealt a heavy blow to Liansheng and other mining companies across the country’s coal belt.

On November 29, the Liulin County People’s Court in Shanxi province announced it had received an application from Liansheng to restructure its operations because it was unable to pay off loans.

Figures presented by the court revealed the extent of the company’s woes, according to the website of the People’s Daily, the official Communist party newspaper. “Liansheng Group’s financial situation is bleak,” it said. “Its debts have nearly reached Rmb30bn and it has already basically lost the ability to repay its debts. Moreover, it faces multiple financial problems, including owing money for taxes, workers’ pensions, project funds, materials and equipment.”

Chinese regulators have long worried about debt risks in the coal industry and have in effect barred banks from lending cash to miners. Yet like its peers, Liansheng had little trouble finding willing lenders among China’s burgeoning shadow banks, which regulators have allowed to help plug the financing gap.

From late 2011 to early 2012, Jilin Trust, one of China’s vast array of non-bank financial institutions, sold to investors an investment product worth Rmb1bn backed entirely by loans to Liansheng.

Jilin Trust warned investors at the start of this month that the first tranche of the Liansheng loans was nearing maturity and that the mining company had yet to cover what is owed, according to China Business News, a local financial newspaper.

A manager with Jilin Trust confirmed to the Financial Times that it had contacted investors about the risk. “This company has cash flow problems. This credit product faces repayment difficulties,” she said, adding that Liansheng had not notified it before applying for restructuring, a process that could pave the way for it to default on some debts.

Multiple calls to Liansheng went unanswered.

Trust companies in China are often very demanding in their requirements for physical assets as collateral, but the Liansheng product was backed only by third-party guarantees. Jason Bedford, a former big four auditor who has focused on the Chinese trust sector for the past six years, said he had never seen a product that relied exclusively on third-party guarantees.

“This is clearly very risky,” he said. “If this was fully disclosed in the product prospectus and there is no evidence of mis-selling, then the loss could be passed on to investors.”

Liansheng’s troubles are a reminder of the thin dividing line between China’s banks and its shadow lending industry. The Liansheng loan product sold by Jilin Trust was distributed in part via China Construction Bank, the country’s second-biggest lender by assets.

Banks tell customers they do not guarantee trust products, which offer returns far higher than traditional bank deposits, but buyers often ignore the warnings in the belief they carry the banks’ implicit backing. The Liansheng investment product targeted an annual return of 9.8 per cent.

Additional reporting by Emma Dong

一位去年为女儿婚礼豪掷上千万美元的中国煤老板现在却在巨额债务的重压下难以为继,此事可能在中国影子银行系统中引发一场重大债务违约。

就在几周以前,邢利斌还以柳林首富著称,柳林是中国北方的一个县,该县在过去十年间因丰富的煤炭储量而致富。邢利斌看起来更像是一位不修边幅的教授,而非一位油滑老练的商业大亨。他以当地媒体所谓的“白菜价”购得了采矿权,并将他的非上市公司联盛能源有限公司(Liansheng Resources Group,简称联盛能源)打造成了中国煤炭行业中的一家举足轻重的企业。

2012年3月,邢利斌为庆祝女儿的婚礼及自己公司成立十周年纪念日,耗资人民币7000万元(合1100万美元)举办了一场宴会,炫耀他所取得的成功。他租用了三架飞机,将亲朋好友接到旅游胜地海南岛上,安排六辆法拉利组成的婚礼车队,还请了流行歌手举办了一场庆祝音乐会。

但自那以后,中国经济增长放缓以及煤炭价格的下跌,沉重打击了联盛能源以及中国煤炭产区的其他矿产企业。

11月29日,山西省柳林县人民法院宣布,因联盛能源严重缺乏债务清偿能力,法院已受理该公司的业务重整申请。

中共党报《人民日报》(People’s Daily)下属的人民网上指出,从柳林县法院公布的数据可以看出联盛能源问题的严重程度。报道称:“目前联盛集团财务状况堪忧,金融负债近300亿元,已基本失去债务清偿能力,且面临欠缴税款、职工养老保险金、工程款、材料设备等多项财务问题。”

中国监管当局对煤炭行业的债务风险担心已久,并已在事实上禁止银行向矿产企业放贷。但和行业内的其他公司一样,联盛能源几乎没费周折就在中国迅速发展的影子银行系统中找到了愿意向其提供贷款的机构。为帮助填补融资缺口,中国监管当局允许影子银行的发展。

2011年末到2012年初,吉林信托(Jilin Trust)向投资者发售了一支价值人民币10亿元的投资产品,而该产品完全是由向联盛能源的贷款支撑的。吉林信托是中国数量庞大的非银行金融机构中的一家。

据中国本土财经媒体《第一财经日报》(China Business News)报道,吉林信托在12月初向投资者发出警告称,联盛能源信托贷款第一期已临近到期日,而该公司到目前为止还没有拿出足够的偿付资金。

吉林信托的一位经理向英国《金融时报》证实,该公司已向投资者告知了贷款违约风险。这位经理表示:“联盛能源存在现金流问题。这支信贷产品面临偿付困难。”她补充称,联盛能源在申请重整前并未告知吉林信托,而重整可能给该公司今后的部分贷款违约铺平道路。

记者多次致电联盛能源,均无人接听。

中国的信托公司往往对作为抵押品的实物资产要求很高,但这支联盛能源信托产品完全由第三方担保支持。贾森?贝德福德(Jason Bedford)曾是四大会计师事务所的一名审计师,并在过去六年中专注研究中国信托行业。他表示,自己从未见过有哪一只信托产品完全依赖第三方担保。

他说:“这种做法的风险显然很高。如果产品募集说明书中充分披露了这一信息,而且没有证据显示在产品发售过程中存在不当行为,那么损失可能被转嫁给投资者。”

联盛能源的问题是一记警钟,提醒我们关注中国银行系统与影子银行体系之间那道细细的分界线。由吉林信托发售的联盛贷款产品部分是通过中国建设银行(China Construction Bank)销售的,按资产规模计算该行是中国的第二大银行。

银行向客户告知,它们不为这类收益率远高于储蓄的信托产品提供担保。但购买者通常忽视银行的警告,认为信托产品具有来自银行的隐性担保。联盛投资产品的目标年化收益率为9.8%。

董慧(Emma Dong)补充报道

译者/马拉

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