【英语中国】中国楼市降温将危及亚洲债市 China property slowdown spells bond trouble

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2014-5-23 06:36

小艾摘要: In May Central China Real Estate, one of the Chinese mainland’s many property developers, proposed issuing Singapore dollar-denominated notes, to refinance a convertible bond due in August.The propos ...
China property slowdown spells bond trouble
In May Central China Real Estate, one of the Chinese mainland’s many property developers, proposed issuing Singapore dollar-denominated notes, to refinance a convertible bond due in August.

The proposed offer received a BB- rating from Standard & Poor’s, reflecting the company’s “increased debt leverage, growing competition in Henan province, and limited geographic diversity”, said the rating agency. “We assess the company’s business risk profile as ‘fair’ and its financial risk profile as ‘aggressive’.”

For many years before it materialised in meaningful scale, capital market practitioners anticipated the development of an Asian bond market that would reduce the region’s reliance on bank finance. Today the Asian bond market is well established. Morgan Stanley expects the size of the market to reach $1tn in three years and issuance in 2014 of $150bn.

The growth in Asia’s bond market has been driven in large part by Chinese issuers, whether in US dollars or local Asian currencies. Up to half of all issuance year-to-date has been from Chinese companies, leading Morgan Stanley to note “Asia is evolving into a China-centric investment grade credit market”.

There have been ugly episodes. Asia Aluminium, a Hong Kong-listed Chinese aluminium processor, filed for liquidation five years ago, leaving bondholders, who had invested in an offshore entity that had no assets, with nothing.

One-off outliers

But the market has, perhaps surprisingly, seen such episodes as one-off outliers. The enthusiasm for Chinese names in a world that remains hungry for yield remains strong. Much of that demand comes from US investors. That is, as Morgan Stanley notes, despite a market that has underperformed, and that has seen both fund outflows and growing supply.

Now there may be worse to come. “The prospect of tighter credit conditions represents increasing downside risks to the highly China-sensitive Asia high-yield class,” Morgan Stanley analysts add.

The risks are highest for property issuers. That is because no single sector seems to have had as voracious an appetite for credit as real estate. Demand for credit from property companies has been growing at about double the rate as, say, for industrial companies.

Offshore bond markets have been a huge source of capital for property companies such as Central China. As the property market slows in China, might there be big defaults that could shake the rosy projections of analysts anticipating a $1tn Asian credit market by 2017? In fact, the combination of several factors makes investing in the bonds of Chinese property developers an increasingly iffy proposition.

Many property developers went offshore to raise money because of strict rules in China about how land acquisition and development can be financed. Banks are not allowed to finance land acquisition. That has led developers to the shadow market or offshore. Beijing is hardly likely to be as sympathetic to the claims of foreign investors as Chinese investors when these developers run out of cash.

Highly levered

Most developers are highly levered. Pre-sales from buildings not yet complete finance later stages of construction. That never used to be a problem. But suddenly it is. Chinese real estate sales dropped 7.8 per cent in April, while volumes dropped more than 20 per cent in the top 40 cities in China, data from Credit Suisse show.

Then add in the currency mismatch. Until February, few people worried that the revenues of Chinese property developers were all in renminbi, because the renminbi was strengthening against the dollar and against a basket of trade-weighted currencies. That strengthening reflected huge surpluses in China’s balance of payments and government policy, committed to the renminbi becoming a reserve currency in coming years.

But in the last week of February the People’s Bank of China suddenly reversed course. The redback is now down against the dollar, partly reversing a 30 per cent rise in the preceding years. While regulators orchestrated the initial shift in the renminbi’s fortunes, the markets have turned bearish on the currency, suggesting further weakness to come. Because this development was so unexpected, bankers say almost no Chinese property developers hedged their foreign currency debt.

Government officials and investors such as Blackstone Real Estate and distressed debt performers, including Clearwater Capital and Shoreline Capital, all expect some debt restructuring and consolidation in the property market in coming months.

During the Asian financial crisis, many Indonesian issuers defaulted on foreign currency debt as the rupiah slid from about 2,400 to the dollar to a fraction of that. China has capital controls and reserves of almost $4tn, making a currency collapse unthinkable. But it does not mean investorsoffshore cannot lose a lot of money in China.

今年5月,中国内地房地产开发商建业地产股份有限公司(Central China Real Estate,简称建业地产)计划发行以新加坡元计值的优先票据,为将于今年8月到期的一批可转债进行再融资。

标准普尔(Standard & Poor's)对此次计划发行的票据给出了BB-评级,并表示,这一评级反映了建业地产“债务杠杆上升,在河南省内面临的竞争加剧以及地区布局不够多元”。该评级机构称:“我们将建业地产的经营风险水平评为‘合理’,将其财务风险水平评为‘激进’。”

早在亚洲债券市场形成较大规模多年以前,资本市场参与者们就曾预计亚洲债券市场的发展将降低该地区对银行融资的依赖。如今,亚洲债券市场已经牢牢地站稳了脚跟。摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)预计,这一市场的规模将在三年之内达到1万亿美元,2014年的发行规模将达到1500亿美元。

亚洲债券市场的发展在很大程度上受到了来自中国的融资方的推动,不论是以美元计值的债券还是以亚洲本地货币计值的债券都是如此。今年到目前为止所有发行的债券,多达二分之一来自中国企业。摩根士丹利因此指出,“亚洲债市正逐渐发展成为以中国为中心的投资级信贷市场”。

不过也有一些不那么光鲜的小插曲。在香港上市的中国铝制品加工商亚洲铝业(Asia Aluminium)五年前申请破产清算,导致债券持有者血本无归——他们投资的是一家零资产的离岸实体。

一次性例外事件

不过或许令人惊讶的是,亚洲债券市场将这类插曲看成一次性的例外事件。在一个仍然渴求高收益率的环境里,市场对于中国企业的热情仍然高涨。这种需求大多来自美国投资者。正如摩根士丹利所指出的,即便亚洲债市表现欠佳,并且同时出现了资金外流和供给扩大,这种热情也依然存在。

亚洲债市未来或将迎来更多不利因素。摩根士丹利的分析师补充称:“信贷条件收紧的前景表明,对中国经济形势高度敏感的亚洲高收益类债券,下行风险增大。”

房地产业的发行方面临的风险最大。这是因为似乎没有其他哪个行业像房地产业那样,对于信贷有着如此贪婪的需求。地产公司对于信贷的需求一直以两倍于工业企业的速度增长。

对于建业地产这样的房地产公司来说,离岸债券市场是巨大的资金来源。随着中国房地产市场增长放缓,是否可能出现大规模违约,撼动分析师们有关2017年亚洲债市规模将达到1万亿美元的乐观预期?事实上,在多种因素的叠加作用下,投资中国地产开发商发行的债券成为了一个愈发可疑的选择。

很多地产开发商前往离岸市场筹集资金,是因为中国内地对于土地收购以及土地开发如何融资设有严格规定。银行不得为土地收购提供资金。这使地产开发商转向了影子银行或者离岸市场。当这些地产开发商的资金枯竭时,中国政府对外国投资者诉求的同情,几乎不可能等同于对中国投资者的同情。

高杠杆

多数房地产开发商的杠杆水平都很高。用尚未完工楼盘的预售款项为后期工程提供融资,这在过去从来不是一个问题。但突然之间,这变成了一个问题。来自瑞士信贷(Credit Suisse)的数据显示,今年4月中国商品房销售额下降了7.8%,而中国40个大中城市的商品房销售量降幅则超过了20%。

此外还突然冒出了币种错配问题。今年2月以前,几乎没有人对中国房地产开发商的收入完全以人民币计值感到担忧,因为人民币相对于美元以及按照贸易权重计算的一篮子货币均呈走强态势。人民币升值反映出的是中国的巨额国际收支盈余,以及致力于使人民币今后成为一种储备货币的政府政策。

但在2月份的最后一周,中国央行(People’s Bank of China)突然改弦易辙。人民币兑美元汇率现已呈下跌走势,部分回吐了过去几年来累计30%的涨幅。虽然人民币汇率走势的最初转变是由监管当局一手导演的,但市场对于人民币的态度已转为看跌,这表明未来人民币或进一步走软。银行家们表示,由于这一局势发展是如此出乎意料,几乎没有一家中国房地产开发商为它们的外币债务进行了对冲。

中国政府官员、黑石房地产公司(Blackstone Real Estate)等投资者,以及包括Clearwater Capital和海岸投资(Shoreline Capital)在内的不良债权投资机构都认为,未来几个月房地产市场中将出现一批债务重组和整合交易。

在亚洲金融危机期间,很多印度尼西亚融资方发行的外币债券发生了违约,因印尼盾汇率从约2400印尼盾兑换1美元大幅下跌。中国目前实行资本账户管制,并拥有约4万亿美元的外汇储备,这使人民币汇率崩溃几乎不可能发生。但这并不意味着离岸市场的投资者不会在中国损失大笔资金。

译者/马拉

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