Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A third of Chinese property developers to face cash crunch

Chinese property

Fitch said in its report that in a severe scenario where residential home sales drop by 30%, 12 or roughly a third of its 40 rated developers could go into negative cash flow

As many as one third of 40 Chinese property developers rated by Fitch Ratings could suffer a cash squeeze in a severe scenario where home sales revenue drops by 30% next year, says the ratings giant.

The longer the stresses on China’s property sector last, the greater the risk of a loss in consumer confidence, Fitch said in a Dec. 20 report.

China’s real estate sector has been hit by a debt crisis in recent months as the cash crunch of the world’s most indebted developer Evergrande came to a head. It finally defaulted earlier this month, while other Chinese developers also started showing signs of strain. Some missed interest payments while others defaulted on their debt altogether.

Residential sales plummeted alongside home buyer confidence. Home sales by value fell 16.31% from last year in November, a fifth month of declines. New home prices dropped 0.3% from the previous month, the largest decline since February 2015, according to Reuters.

Fitch said in its report that in a severe scenario where residential home sales drop by 30%, 12 or roughly a third of its 40 rated developers could go into negative cash flow. In Fitch’s base case — a less severe scenario — a 15% fall in home sales could result in about 13% of its rated developers suffering a cash deficit.

Chinese developers face $19.8 billion in maturing offshore, U.S.-dollar denominated bonds in the first quarter and $18.5 billion in the second, Nomura analysts estimated in a recent note. That first-quarter amount is nearly double the $10.2 billion in maturities of the fourth quarter, the analysts said.

In the next year, real estate developers are set to face an even higher amount of bond maturities.

Developers rated “B” or lower, in particular, will face rising pressure to repay offshore debt, with maturing or putable offshore bonds in 2022 having higher principal amounts due than in 2021, Fitch said. Putable bonds allow their holders to force the issuer to redeem the bond before maturity.

A “B” rating means there is material default risk, but a limited margin of safety remains.

As the debt crisis unfolded, doubt also arose over the lack of transparency on the true scale of developer liabilities.

Some distressed credits over the past few months have also cast doubt over the transparency of companies’ disclosures and contingent liabilities, Fitch said.

One example was Fantasia, which had a private bond not disclosed in the firm’s financial reports that Fitch highlighted in October.

The emergence of ‘hidden private debt’ compounds liquidity strains, particularly for lower-rated developers with large upcoming bond maturities, Fitch said in the report last week.

Such hidden debt would include undisclosed debt and guarantees for borrowings of joint ventures, associates and other third parties that allow developers to skirt China’s ‘three red lines’ debt limits, according to Fitch.


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