China needs to let more companies go bust.
That was the message from several executives at a real-estate conference in Shanghai on Thursday, as the latest string of loan defaults among real-estate developers and a small construction firm have some people talking about bankruptcy more freely.
It's crazy that China hasn't had a major bankruptcy in recent years, said Ronnie Chan, chairman of Hong Kong-listed property developer Hang Lung Group.
Although the country has a bankruptcy code somewhat similar to that in the U.S., it's rarely used. Borrowers sometimes flee rather than try to work out problems under bankruptcy law, and there are few judges, administrators or lawyers who specialize in the field.
Last month, property developer Zhejiang Xingrun Real Estate Co. couldn't repay nearly $600 million of loans. Local officials in Fenghua, the eastern city where the developer is based, are worried that a bankruptcy could hurt the city's reputation and have said they've set up a task force to deal with the outstanding debt and remaining land assets.
On Wednesday, a Shenzhen-listed shipbuilder said property firm Nanjing Fudi Property Developing Co. has failed to repay 105.4 million yuan ($16.9 million) loan, including interest.
While China has seen developers default before, government officials have arranged bailouts for troubled firms that allow their underlying financial problems to fester. On Thursday, analysts argued that authorities have to be willing to address the other option: Let the companies go broke, and send a warning to markets, even if it leads to some financial turmoil in the near term.
Mr. Chan argues that real-estate firms declaring bankruptcy isn't a social problem. 'Another firm takes over the land or project, and no one has to be fired.'
Developers and government officials must be 'forced to accept reality,' he said.
To be sure, the developer isn't saying massive waves of bankruptcies are the way to go either. This is acceptable as long as not too many companies go broke at the same time and doesn't result too much disruption, Mr. Chan added. In other words, they don't want a 'Lehman Brothers' moment.
'That's why we prune trees,' said John Allen, chief executive officer of private investment firm Greater China Corporation in a later speech. 'Bankruptcy is one of the healthiest things around. You want to get rid of the weak players.'
Mr. Allen cited Donald Trump as an example. Companies run by the billionaire developer--whose business empire includes the TV show 'The Apprentice,' golf courses and real estate around the world--have filed for bankruptcy. Trump-branded casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., for instance, have filed for bankruptcy protection at least three times.
Although China's central government appears to be more amenable to letting firms go bust, local officials are still hung up over the impression a default will leave. Defaults and bankruptcies weaken a city's investment appeal, analysts say.
But bankruptcies among highly leveraged developers are normal in markets and a natural progression as weaker players are weeded out.
'You need to use the toilet every day,' said Mr. Chan. 'You have to discharge something.'
香港上市房地产开发商恒隆集团有限公司(Hang Lung Group Ltd. 简称：恒隆集团)主席陈启宗(Ronnie Chan)称，中国大陆近年来没有发生过一起大型破产事件，这让人不可思议。
今年3月份，浙江兴润置业投资有限公司(Zhejiang Xingrun Real Estate Co., 简称：兴润置业)未能按时偿还近6亿美元的贷款。该公司所在的奉化市的地方政府官员担心，如果让该公司破产，可能会损害该市的名声，他们表示，已组建一个工作小组来处理该公司的未偿债务和遗留的土地资产。
本周三，深圳一家上市造船企业称，南京福地房地产开发有限公司(Nanjing Fudi Property Developing Co.)未能按时偿还人民币1.054亿元（合1,690万美元）的贷款和相应利息。
私人投资公司Greater China Corporation的首席执行长艾伦(John Allen)在之后的演讲中称，这也与我们为何修剪树木相似，破产是最有益的事情之一，可以淘汰较弱的参与者。
艾伦举了唐纳德•特朗普(Donald Trump)的例子。这位地产大亨经营的公司也申请过破产。例如，他在美国新泽西州大西洋城(Atlantic City)创办的特朗普品牌的赌场至少申请过三次破产保护。特朗普的商业帝国包括电视节目《飞黄腾达》(The Apprentice)、全球各地的高尔夫球场和房地产。