No Lehman risk with Evergrande

Finance | Andrew Wong 20 Sep 2021

The hot topic last week was whether China Evergrande's more than US$300 billion debt (HK$2.34 trillion) problem would lead to another "Lehman Brothers storm."

This week will be critical as on Thursday, it will have to pay US$83.5 million in interest on an offshore bond maturing in March and US$47.5 million in interest on a note maturing in March 2024 next Wednesday.

But it appears highly likely Evergrande will not pay the interest, which means the group is technically in default.

Besides those set to lose from investing in its bonds, Agricultural, Minsheng and CITIC banks also face loan writeoffs.

But late last year mainland banks started reducing sizes of loans to developers, which had to have enough collateral, including title deeds, to get a loan so they can get repaid through a resale.

That is why a central bank official has pointed out that Evergrande's debt woes would not pose systemic risk to banking.

Then why is the market still worried? The main reason is that Evergrande debts are equivalent to 2 percent of China's GDP.

What's more, investors are worried about a domino effect, sharp drops in property prices and the impact on other firms.

It may also affect the enterprises' ability to finance and issue bonds, thus bringing further havoc to China's real estate market and another "Lehman storm."

However, unlike the US market in 2007 to 2008, China's does not have too many complicated financial products that can affect housing market operations and Beijing's ability to control and monitor the market is better than the United States.

If everyone looks at bond prices for domestic housing enterprises, interest repayments by enterprises such as China Resources Land, China Overseas etc, is still at 3 to 4 percent, far lower than Evergrande, Sunac China Holdings and R&F Properties.

That means the bond market is not yet worried Evergrande will influence the property market and cause a mainland crisis.

Therefore, an Evergrande collapse may have a short-term impact, but in the long run, the market may have many opportunities. We will talk about them next week.

Andrew Wong is chairman and CEO of Anli Securities



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