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Junk Yield Premiums Soar on China’s Looming First Default – Bloomberg

Junk Yield Premiums Soar on China’s Looming First Default – Bloomberg.

By Bloomberg News  Feb 9, 2014 9:42 PM ET

The extra cost to borrow for China’s riskiest companies is at the highest in 20 months as soaring interest rates heighten concern the nation will experience its first onshore bond default.

The yield gap on five-year AA- notes over AAA debt jumped 27 basis points last month to 224, the most since June 2012, Chinabond indexes show. Ratings of AA- or below are equivalent to non-investment grades globally, according to Haitong Securities Co., the nation’s second-biggest brokerage. The similar spread in the U.S. is 403 basis points, Bank of America Merrill Lynch data show.

The failure of coal companies to meet payment deadlines for trust products has increased concern over debt defaults, with the equivalent of $53 billion of bonds sold by renewable energy, construction materials, metals and mining companies due in 2014. A report on Jan. 30 signaled China’s factories are contracting for the first time since August amid signs of financial stress including mounting losses and bailouts.

“China’s bond market will definitely see its first default this year,” said Xu Hanfei, a bond analyst inShanghai at Guotai Junan Securities Co., the nation’s third-biggest brokerage. “The economy is slowing while the government seems still confident about growth, which means the authorities probably won’t announce any measures to avert the slowdown. This is the worst scenario.”

Financial Panic

A further $21 billion of securities in those three sectors mature in 2015, the Bloomberg data show, with companies including Baoshan Iron & Steel Co., China Minmetals Corp. and Wuhan Iron & Steel Co. among the most indebted. Bonds of steel and coal companies are under added pressure considering the government’s campaign to reduce smog, and industry overcapacity, according to Moody’s Investors Service, which has a negative outlook on both.

LDK Solar Co. is looking at ways to restructure obligations on its offshore yuan debt after missing payments on its dollar debt last year. Zhuhai Zhongfu Enterprise Co. (000659), a manufacturer of beverage packaging, said on Jan. 28 its 2015 debentures may be suspended from trade after its estimated net loss was as much as 450 million yuan ($74.2 million) in 2013. The yield on the 5.28 percent notes has climbed 217.5 basis points this year to 18.76 percent, exchange data show.

Steel, Shipping

The world’s second-biggest economy slowed in the fourth quarter to 7.7 percent from 7.8 percent in the previous three months as Premier Li Keqiang drove up money-market rates to encourage companies and local governments to deleverage.

China’s central bank signaled in a Feb. 8 report that volatility in money-market interest rates will persist and borrowing costs will rise, further underscoring the risk of defaults which could weigh on confidence and drag down growth.

China Credit Trust Co. reached an agreement last month to repay bailed-out investors in a high-yield product whose threatened failure spurred concern bad debts will rise in the nation’s $1.7 trillion trust industry.

The gap between top-rated and lower-rated bonds in China may widen further this year as news about possible defaults shakes the market, according to Cheng Qingsheng, an analyst at Evergrowing Bank Co.

“There should be a default in China’s onshore bonds this year,” Shanghai-based Cheng said. “Privately issued bonds have higher default risks than publicly traded bonds.” A first default may happen in the steel, coal, shipping or photovoltaic power industries, Cheng said.

Default Swaps

As default concerns escalate, the cost of insuring the nation’s debt against non-payment is rising. China’s credit-default swaps have increased 13 basis points this year to 93 as of Feb. 7. The yuanfell to 6.0646 per dollar on Feb. 7, the lowest level this year. It was little changed at 6.0605 as of 10:32 a.m. in Shanghai.

There have been no defaults in China’s publicly traded domestic debt market since the central bank started regulating it in 1997, according to Moody’s.

Local governments have helped some companies avert missing payment deadlines, according to Yao Wei, the Hong Kong-based China economist at Societe Generale SA. CHTC Helon Co., a fiber maker which used to be called Shandong Helon Co., repaid 400 million yuan of notes in April 2012 even as it failed to make loan repayments.

Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology Co. (002506), which averted default on an interest payment last year and had just 618.7 million yuan cash as of September, will pay 898 million yuan of debt in March, according to Guotai Junan. The solar-panel maker’s debt-to-asset ratio was 90.1 percent at the end of the third quarter, according to a company financial report released Oct. 27.

High Cost

Other companies are receiving help from related entities. Changzhou Wintafone Chemical Co., a maker of herbicides and insecticides based in the eastern province of Jiangsu, said last month it’s stopped production and can’t repay notes due in March. Changzhou Qinghong Chemical Co., the note’s guarantor, repaid 36.9 million yuan on its behalf on Jan. 17.

A first default may be avoided if local governments continue to step in, said Beijing-based Yang Feng, a bond analyst at Citic Securities Co., the nation’s biggest brokerage.

“The cost of a default on a bond would be very high,” said Yang. “If a company in Shanghai defaults, it would be difficult for every company in the city to raise money.”

Turning Cautious

The yield on AA- rated five-year corporate bonds climbed 13 basis points last month to 8.38 percent. The rate on the benchmark five-year government bond dropped 24 basis points to 4.22 percent over the same period.

The average yield on high-yield Dim Sum bonds, or yuan-denominated notes sold in Hong Kong, has climbed 14 basis points this month to 5.66 percent on Feb. 6, the highest since October, according to an index compiled by HSBC Holdings Plc. Yields averaged 5.52 percent on Dec. 31.

U.S. dollar-denominated 13.25 percent notes sold by Glorious Property Holdings Ltd. (845) in February last year and due in 2018 were yielding 19.61 percent on Feb. 7, Bloomberg-compiled prices show. The company’s chief executive officer and chief financial officer resigned last week, less than one month after shareholders rejected an offer by Chinese billionaire Zhang Zhirong to take the developer private.

“Investors have turned cautious on high-yield bonds,” said Guotai Junan’s Xu, who forecasts China’s economy will grow 7 percent this year. “Since China’s onshore bond market hasn’t had a default, the market may not have priced in all the risk it should have.”

Sinovel, Nanjing

Sinovel Wind Group Co. (601558), said on Jan. 29 its bonds due 2016 may be suspended from trade because it may report a second year of losses. The yield on the 6.2 percent notes has jumped 329 basis points in 2014 to 15.01 percent as of today. Similarly, Nanjing Iron & Steel Co. (600282), partly owned by Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang, said last month its 2018 bonds may stop trading because it too could report a second year of losses. The yield on those notes has soared 208 basis points this year to 10.72 percent, exchange data show.

“It would be best if the government will allow defaults,” Zhang Ming, a senior research fellow at the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said in a Jan. 22 interview. “The bubbles are gradually inflating, and sooner and later there will be a collapse. The best scenario is that you allow defaults in some places when you are ready so that some risks can be released. The later the default, the more damaging.”

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Judy Chen in Shanghai atxchen45@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katrina Nicholas at knicholas2@bloomberg.net; Sandy Hendry at shendry@bloomberg.net

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: After Seven Lean Years, Part 2: US Commercial Real Estate: The Present Position and Future Prospects

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: After Seven Lean Years, Part 2: US Commercial Real Estate: The Present Position and Future Prospects.

The fundamentals of demographics, stagnant household income and an overbuilt retail sector eroded by eCommerce support only one conclusion: commercial real estate in the U.S. will implode as retail sales and profits weaken.

The first installment of our series on U.S. real estate by correspondent Mark G.focused on residential real estate. In Part 2, Mark explains why the commercial real estate (CRE) market is set to implode.

In the early stages of the sub-prime mortgage crisis it was widely believed that US commercial real estate (CRE) would manage to dodge the bullets. In the end CRE was found to be as vulnerable as anything else.
© 2014 Real Capital Analytics, Inc. All rights reserved. Source: Real Capital Analytics and Moody’s Investors Service. http://www.rcanalytics.com Used by permission.

These three graphs of relative prices show that in CRE the “core” is doing better than the “periphery”. The gap in relative price performance of major metro CRE over smaller cities and towns has approximately doubled from where it was in 2008.

And as with residential real estate, some CRE sub-sectors and cities are obtaining far greater benefit from bailout, stimulus and quantitative easing programs than other areas:

© 2014 Real Capital Analytics, Inc. All rights reserved. Source: Real Capital Analytics and Moody’s Investors Service. http://www.rcanalytics.com Used by permission.

Commercial real estate has a more complex structure than residential real estate. There is greater specialization in function. For instance strip shopping centers and indoor malls are generally not exchangeable with warehouse facilities.

We can simplify this a bit by classifying CRE by consumer sector and function. Industrial real estate will not be considered in detail. Current industrial construction spending is near a record high. But the value of current industrial CRE can still be depressed due to existing plant obsolescence and rapid shifts in activity location.

This leaves us to consider consumer retail and consumer service CRE.

Consumer Retail Spending & Retail CRE

The value of commercial real estate is driven by the revenues and profits earned by the businesses occupying CRE. This relationship is similar to the relationship between residential real estate prices and average household income.

The Two Drivers of Consumer Spending: Population Size and Average Household Income:

These two parameters show continuously increasing population size and declining average household incomes. The subsequent data shows this is resulting in a small increase in total consumer spending and also large shifts in spending patterns.

Real inflation adjusted total retail spending has increased slightly over its peak in 2007.

Essentially all of this increase has occurred in food spending. (A smaller portion has gone into clothing). And this is the only reasonable expectation given the twin conditions of an increasing total population and a declining average income per consumer. We can also note that “food” is a minuscule part of eCommerce. The retail food trade occurs almost entirely in neighborhood groceries, markets and convenience stores. The other non-food retail sectors are flat to declining. But within these sectors there is a large zero-sum game being played out between eCommerce and local bricks ‘n mortar stores:

The Rise of eCommerce

Since 2008 eCommerce retail sales have nearly doubled. But as we just saw, the entire increase in total consumer spending since 2008 is accounted for by the increased food sales which occur at local markets. “eCommerce” is therefore taking sales away from other local retail sectors. And the biggest single loser is:

Local Retail Department Stores

This macroeconomic data is well-supported by the current financials of both Sears and JC Penney. Sears’ trailing twelve month (ttm) earnings per share are – $14.11. This loss will increase once Sears reports its fourth quarter earnings at the end of February, 2014. Sears is widely expected to lose one billion dollars in 2014. J.C. Penney meanwhile is currently reporting ttm losses of -$7.32 per share.

One or both of these chains will be in bankruptcy by 2015 even if the current “recovery” continues. And outright liquidation of one or both companies is at least as likely as reorganization. There is little reason to believe either of these companies would be more viable following mere debt reduction.

The third major department store chain is Macy’s, which is still reporting profits. Oddly enough Macy’s management celebrated their 2013 holiday season by announcing 2,500 permanent layoffs from their local retail department stores. This was paired with a mid-December announcement of an increase of 1,500 employees in a new eCommerce fulfillment center in Oklahoma.

In these circumstances it is unsurprising that retail CRE prices are showing weak recovery.

© 2014 Real Capital Analytics, Inc. All rights reserved. Source: Real Capital Analytics and Moody’s Investors Service. http://www.rcanalytics.com Used by permission.

The Coming Implosion of the Regional Indoor Shopping Mall
(and adjacent strip shopping centers)

There are approximately 1,100 indoor shopping malls in the USA. Sears has about 2,000 stores. JC Penney’s has almost exactly 1,100 stores. There are very few malls that don’t have at least one of these chains. The vast majority of malls have both as major anchor stores. Macy’s is typically the third major anchor now. A regional department store chain or two round out the large anchor stores.

A virtual stroll down the typical mall concourse will reveal plenty of other money losing chain retailers with names like Radio Shack et al. Adjacent strip shopping centers
This should not be surprising. The regional indoor mall is a middle class income institution. It grew up with the post-WWII rise in average incomes. As middle class incomes now disappear so are the former favorite shopping venues of the middle class.

Every time a mall store closes shoppers lose another reason to go to the mall. “Dead mall” syndrome will soon afflict most of this sector.

In addition to decaying tenant revenues the mall owning Real Estate Investment Trusts are dangerously overleveraged with low-cost to free ZIRP and QE funding. Now that the Federal Reserve is tapering QE their financing costs will be rising as commercial balloon mortgages come due and have to be rolled over. And since the typical commercial mall mortgage does carry a large balloon payment at the end they have to be refinanced. Assuming honest loan underwriting a higher risk premium will also be attached due to the deteriorating retail fundamentals of the tenants.

General Growth Properties (GGP) is probably in the best condition. This is because GGP just exited a Chapter 11 reorganization in 2010. It was placed into involuntary bankruptcy in 2009 by two mortgagors holding matured recourse balloon mortgages. GGP was understandably unable to refinance these balloons in the spring of 2009.

This entire sector will collapse when the next recession appears.

And since history hasn’t ended, the next recession will appear at some point. It may be appearing already. At the beginning of October, 2013 the analyst consensus for retail profit growth for the strongest October – December holiday quarter was 5.5%. At the beginning of the reporting cycle in January expectations were down to 0.5% profit growth. That is a 90% reduction in analyst expectations in just three months.

Barring a turnaround, many retail chains still reporting profits will be reporting quarter-on-quarter profit declines in April. And by the end of the third quarter more will start reporting outright losses.

Part 3 will examine the other major part of local consumer oriented CRE. These are consumer services like neighborhood banking, investment, insurance and other services. Experience to date demonstrates that in the next few years the internet, expert software systems and robotics/automation will eliminate 50% and more of the jobs formerly associated with these businesses. These same trends will also shift most of the surviving positions away from the traditional storefront strip center and local office park locations.

Thank you, Mark, for this comprehensive analysis. We look forward to reading Part 3.
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