China state assets regulator says debt reduction, curbing risks still key

China’s Finance Minister Xiao Jie has tried to defuse concern over the country’s rising debt, saying government borrowing is below danger levels. (AP)
Updated 10 March 2018

China state assets regulator says debt reduction, curbing risks still key

BEIJING: Reducing debt and curbing risks remain priorities for China’s state-owned firms, the head of the country’s state assets regulator said on Saturday, as Beijing continues its restructuring and deleveraging efforts.
State-owned firms would be pushed to improve their asset quality and boost their equity capital, Xiao Yaqing, chairman of the State Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, told reporters on the sidelines of China’s annual meeting of parliament.
The regulator also would seek to use debt-for-equity swaps to further reduce debt at state-owned companies, he added.
In 2015, Beijing introduced reforms to its state-owned industrial sector aimed at strengthening central government-owned enterprises, while introducing more professional management systems such as the adoption of boards of directors.
Xiao said those reforms would quicken.
The sector reported a rebound last year, with enterprises owned by China’s central government showing profit growth of 15.2 percent, to 1.4 trillion yuan ($221.2 billion), the fastest in five years.
Total profit from China’s central government-owned firms for the first two months of 2018 rose 22.6 percent from a year earlier to 266.7 billion yuan ($42.1 billion), Xiao said.


Israel cenbank’s Abir says buying corporate bonds to prevent layoffs

Updated 5 min 21 sec ago

Israel cenbank’s Abir says buying corporate bonds to prevent layoffs

JERUSALEM: The Bank of Israel’s decision to start buying corporate bonds should enable companies to issue debt and prevent further layoffs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, deputy governor Andrew Abir said.
On Monday, the bank held its benchmark interest rate at 0.1 percent but said it would buy 15 billion shekels ($4 billion) of higher-rated corporate bonds in the secondary market.
“It’s not that the corporate bond market was not functioning or because spreads have widened dramatically, but rather the understanding that over the next 6-12 months, there’s going to be a need for issuance in that market,” Abir told Reuters.
The central bank began purchases on March 15 of up to 50 billion shekels of government bonds, which has helped reverse a spike in government and corporate yields.
The index of bonds issued by Israel’s 20 largest firms has gained 1.4 percent following the central bank’s announcement, following three weeks of declines.
Noting that more than 40 percent of corporate credit comes from the bond market, Abir said that fear of being frozen out the market could lead to cash hoarding and cost-cutting, including jobs.
“We want to prevent a situation where a company is having question marks in its ability to fund themselves (and) lays off another 1,000 workers.”
Unemployment is already more than 20 percent and could worsen after some COVID-19 restrictions were reimposed.
Abir said risks to the central bank’s scenario of a record six percent economic contraction in 2020 will be “to the downside” if the infection rate stays high.
Analysts are split over whether the central bank will lower its key rate to zero percent or negative. The Bank of Israel has indicated it is reluctant to do so.
“We still have more measures that we can do. QE can be increased. We haven’t run out of our policy options,” Abir said.