Evergrande's debt struggle rattles investors

Evergrande's debt struggle rattles investors
China Evergrande Group icon on office building wall. Image Shutterstock
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Updated 21 September 2021

Evergrande's debt struggle rattles investors

Evergrande's debt struggle rattles investors
  • Some commentators suggest Evergrande might become China’s “Lehman moment,” referring to the failure of Wall Street bank Lehman Brothers, a forerunner to the 2008 crisis
  • Evergrande’s Hong Kong-traded shares have fallen 85 percent since early 2021

Global investors are watching nervously as one of China’s biggest real estate developers struggles to avoid defaulting on tens of billions of dollars of debt, fueling fears of possible wider shock waves for the financial system.


Chinese regulators have yet to say what they might do about Evergrande Group. Economists expect Beijing to intervene if Evergrande and lenders can’t agree on how to handle its debts. But any official resolution is expected to involve losses for banks and bondholders.


The government “doesn’t want to be seen as engineering a bailout” but is likely to organize a debt restructuring to “reduce systemic risk and contain economic disruption,” Tommy Wu of Oxford Economics said in a report.


Evergrande is the biggest casualty yet from the ruling Communist Party’s effort to rein in surging debt levels Beijing sees as a possible threat to the economy.


Investors are watching how the developer headquartered in the southern city of Shenzhen near Hong Kong handles an interest payment due Thursday on one of its bonds.


Evergrande Group, founded in 1996, is one of China’s biggest builders of apartments, office towers and shopping malls and one of its biggest private sector conglomerates.


The company says it has more than 200,000 employees and supports 3.8 million jobs in construction and other industries. Evergrande says it has 1,300 projects in 280 cities and assets worth 2.3 trillion yuan ($350 billion).


Evergrande’s founder, Xu Jiayin, was China’s richest entrepreneur in 2017 with a net worth of $43 billion, according to the Hurun Report, which follows China’s wealthy. He has tumbled down the list as internet industries boomed but still ranked as China’s richest real estate developer last year.

He also topped Hurun’s 2020 list of philanthropists, giving away an estimated 2.8 billion yuan ($420 million).


Evergrande has branched out into electric vehicles, theme park development, health clinics, mineral water and other businesses.

Evergrande’s Hong Kong-traded shares have fallen 85 percent since early 2021. Its bonds are trading at an equally deep discount.


As of June 30, Evergrande reported 2 trillion yuan ($310 billion) of outstanding debts to bondholders, banks, construction contractors and other creditors.


Of that debt, 240 billion yuan ($37.3 billion) was due within a year, down 28.5 percent from the end of 2020 but nearly triple Evergrande's 86.8 billion yuan ($13.5 billion) in cash holdings, according to a company financial report.


In early 2021, Evergrande forecast its total annual transaction volume would surpass 2 trillion yuan ($310 billion). It reported a $1.4 billion first-half profit but says sales are weakening because news of its cash crunch is making would-be buyers nervous.

Evergrande was caught out by new limits regulators imposed on real estate-related borrowing as part of the Communist Party's marathon campaign to reduce reliance on debt.


Economists have been warning China’s rising debt is a potential threat for more than a decade. The ruling party has made reducing such financial risks a priority since 2018.

But total corporate, government and household borrowing rose to nearly 300 percent of economic output last year from 270 percent in 2018. Unusually high for a middle-income country.


News reports indicate Evergrande borrowed everywhere it could, including by requiring employees of its construction contractors to buy its debt.


In 2017, state-owned China Citic Bank in Shenzhen agreed to lend 40 billion yuan ($6.2 billion) for an Evergrande project only after its executives agreed to invest at least 3 million yuan ($465,000) each, according to the business news magazine Caixin.


The Communist Party has cracked down on debt as it tries to nurture self-sustaining economic growth based on domestic consumption instead of trade and debt-supported investment.


It allowed China's first corporate debt default since the 1949 revolution in 2014 as part of efforts to force borrowers and lenders to be more disciplined.

Until then, the government had intervened to bail out insolvent borrowers to avoid spooking financial markets. Beijing has gradually allowed more defaults, but none by a debtor as big as Evergrande.

Some commentators suggest Evergrande might become China’s “Lehman moment,” referring to the failure of Wall Street bank Lehman Brothers, a forerunner to the 2008 crisis. But economists say the risk of wider financial market contagion is low.


“A managed default or even messy collapse of Evergrande would have little global impact beyond some market turbulence,” said MacAdam of Capital Economics.


In the unlikely event of an outright default, China’s banking system has an annual profit of 1.9 trillion yuan and reserves of 5.4 trillion yuan against bad loans, “which could easily absorb the loss,” Larry Hu and Xinyu Ji of Macquarie Group said in a report.

WHAT NEXT?


Investors are waiting to see what Chinese regulators might do, but analysts say they appear to be focused on protecting home buyers by ensuring apartments already paid for are completed.


The government has injected money into other insolvent Chinese companies, but economists say Beijing appears determined to avoid doing that with Evergrande.


In a letter Tuesday to employees, Xu expressed confidence the company will survive.

 


“Evergrande will surely get out of the darkest moment as soon as possible,” Xu said in the letter marking the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival.


'SGI signals a new era for mankind': How the Saudi Green Initiative Forum could change the world

'SGI signals a new era for mankind': How the Saudi Green Initiative Forum could change the world
Updated 55 min 22 sec ago

'SGI signals a new era for mankind': How the Saudi Green Initiative Forum could change the world

'SGI signals a new era for mankind': How the Saudi Green Initiative Forum could change the world
  • "We reject the false choice between preserving the economy and protecting the environment," says Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman

Since the early part of the last century, the image and fortunes of Saudi Arabia have been inextricably linked to a single element. The discovery and exploitation of oil transformed life in the KSA and positioned the country front and center in the petrol-driven global economy.

But times have changed over the last two decades. There is a recognition that oil and its derivatives, such as plastic and petrochemicals, are a primary cause of global warming, pollution and environmental catastrophe. In the KSA, air pollution from greenhouse gases shortens life expectancy by 1.5 years, while desertification and dust storms cause $13 billion of damage per year.

This bleak picture is a wake-up call, triggering a seismic shift across the world, away from carbon-sourced energy and hyper-consumption towards a cleaner and more sustainable way of life.

An energy leader for decades, the KSA is now positioning itself at the vanguard of environmental action. This effort is encapsulated in the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) – a national program to combat pollution and land degradation, increase vegetation cover, reduce carbon emissions and preserve marine life.

“The Kingdom fully recognizes its share of responsibility in advancing the fight against the climate crisis. Just as the Kingdom underpinned energy markets during the oil and gas era, it is going to become a global leader in forging a greener world,” says Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, patron of the SGI.

Having introduced the concept of the Circular Carbon Economy (a closed-loop system involving ‘4Rs’: reduce, reuse, recycle and remove) during its presidency of the G20 summit last year, Saudi Arabia is again taking a leadership role by hosting the forthcoming SGI Forum, to be held in Riyadh on 23-24 November.

The forum will, in its own words, “catalyze climate action in a regionally and internationally coordinated manner . . . bring together heads of state, public officials, business leaders, academic pioneers and environmental specialists. . . and drive action and spark innovative solutions to help tackle climate change.”

The event will help to define a road map that seeks to rally the Gulf region and contribute to agreed global targets by confronting climate change, increasing the use of clean energy, offsetting the impact of fossil fuels and protecting the environment.

The SGI is hugely ambitious. Ten billion trees are to be planted in the Kingdom over the next decade, rehabilitating some 40 million hectares of degraded land and bringing about a 12-fold increase from current tree covers. This is equal to four percent of the global initiative to limit the degradation of land, and one percent of the target to plant one trillion trees globally.

The percentage of protected areas in Saudi Arabia will reach over 30 percent of total land – about 600,000 square kilometers — exceeding the global target of 17 percent. Carbon emissions will be reduced by 130 million tons brought about by a plan to generate 50 percent of the Kingdom’s energy from renewables by 2030; and landfills – where 95 percent of waste is currently deposited — will be reduced to only five percent of waste.

In fact, the very notion of ‘garbage’ will become largely a thing of the past, as every form of waste becomes the raw material for a value-added product or energy source, in what is a key part of the ‘circular economy’ concept.

The SGI will work in tandem with the broader Middle East Green Initiative, which includes all GCC states along with other regional countries. The overall goal is to plant 50 billion trees across the Middle East — the largest reforestation program in the world, restoring 200 million hectares of degraded land. Carbon emissions from the region are to be reduced by over 60 percent, equal to more than 10 percent of the intended global reduction.

While Saudi citizens are used to a comfortable life of big cars and disposable products, it is clear that the SGI is already having a profound cultural impact.

“I think the SGI will open up a whole new era for mankind,” Ziyad Al Shiha, chief executive of the Saudi Investment Recycling Company, a leading agency in the circular economy, told Arab News.

“We're at a turning point now and it’s part of a major shift in the world economy. We are putting investment on the ground, working with corporations, small and medium-sized enterprises and with individuals — anything that will contribute to the circular economy.”

The greening of Saudi Arabia will involve changes to the daily lives of ordinary people, and an entirely new mindset. It will be young people, in particular, who forge a new path away from the habits of the past few decades.

“The SGI is an initiative by our government for a greener future for Saudi and the Middle East,” Fatimah Ahmad, an executive at the $500 billion NEOM megacity project, told Arab News.

She added: “The KSA is taking the lead to protect tomorrow from the climate change crisis. It’s one of the Vision 2030 projects I am personally excited about. It’s an ambitious, wild dream and I am sure it will come true very soon.”

Cynical voices might say that the decline of the oil era, and the global transition to a greener way of life, will have a detrimental effect upon the economy and standard of living in Saudi Arabia.

But Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has a more positive outlook. “We reject the false choice between preserving the economy and protecting the environment,” he declared when launching the SGI in March.

He added: “Climate action will enhance competitiveness, spark innovation, and create millions of high-quality jobs. Young people, both in the Kingdom and the world, are demanding a cleaner, greener and more inclusive future, and we owe it to them to deliver on this.”

The SGI Forum will no doubt generate more ideas, greater awareness and practical solutions in the drive towards a sustainable future in Saudi Arabia and across the world.


Fertiglobe IPO on track for $6 billion valuation as share subscription ends

Fertiglobe IPO on track for $6 billion valuation as share subscription ends
Updated 56 min 35 sec ago

Fertiglobe IPO on track for $6 billion valuation as share subscription ends

Fertiglobe IPO on track for $6 billion valuation as share subscription ends
  • The firm, a joint venture between Abu Dhabi National Oil Co and chemical producer OCI formed in 2019, plans to raise between $765 million and $827 million giving it a valuation of $5.5 billion and $6 billion.

Demand for shares in fertilizer group Fertiglobe ended on Monday, with 114.6 million shares allocated on the Abu Dhabi stock market, and the firm on track for a $6 billion valuation, Al-Arabiya reported.

The firm, a joint venture between Abu Dhabi National Oil Co and chemical producer OCI formed in 2019, plans to raise between $765 million and $827 million giving it a valuation of $5.5 billion and $6 billion.

It has set a price range of 2.45 to 2.65 dirhams for the stock, with Al-Arabiya reporting it is on track to price its shares at the top of the range, citing unnamed sources.

The amount of shares allocated is equivalent to 13.8 percent of the business.

Subscription for Fertiglobe shares began on 13 October, with two tranches, of stock offered to investors.

Final pricing of the stock will be set on 20 October, with shares scheduled to start trading on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange on 27 October, according to a company statement.

 


Mobily profits up by 40% in first nine months of 2021

Mobily profits up by 40% in first nine months of 2021
Updated 19 October 2021

Mobily profits up by 40% in first nine months of 2021

Mobily profits up by 40% in first nine months of 2021

RIYADH: Etihad Etisalat Co. (Mobily) profits jumped by 40 percent to SR751 million ($200.2 million) by the end of the first nine months of 2021, Argaam reported.

Mobily recorded profits of SR537 million during the same period in 2020.

Saudi Arabia's second mobile service provider witnessed profits of SR281 million in the third quarter.

 


Fashion firm Rent the Runway aims for nearly $1.3bn valuation in U.S. IPO

Fashion firm Rent the Runway aims for nearly $1.3bn valuation in U.S. IPO
Getty Images
Updated 19 October 2021

Fashion firm Rent the Runway aims for nearly $1.3bn valuation in U.S. IPO

Fashion firm Rent the Runway aims for nearly $1.3bn valuation in U.S. IPO
  • Rent the Runway plans to sell 15 million shares priced between $18.00 and $21.00 apiece in its IPO

Rent the Runway is aiming for a valuation of nearly $1.3 billion in its U.S. initial public offering, as the fashion rental company looks to cash in on the rising interest in pre-owned clothing.


The company, founded in 2009, lets users rent and shop second-hand clothes and accessories such as handbags and jewelry in over 18,000 styles from more than 750 designer brands. It also allows customers to rent and shop home goods.


Rent the Runway plans to sell 15 million shares priced between $18.00 and $21.00 apiece in its IPO, raising $315 million, according to a filing.


Earlier this month, the Brooklyn, New York-based company disclosed a near 39 percent drop in revenue for the fiscal year 2020. Its top line also took a hit in the first half of this fiscal year, with revenue down 9 percent for the period ended July 31.


Rent the Runway said its active subscribers more than doubled to 111,732 in the first nine months of 2021.


Demand for second-hand clothes has jumped in recent months as customers become increasingly conscious about their carbon footprint, boosting revenues at styling service Stitch Fix and online resale shop ThredUp.


Goldman Sachs & Co, Morgan Stanley and Barclays are the lead underwriters for the offering. Rent the Runway will list its stock on the Nasdaq under the symbol "RENT".


Bitcoin nears record high ahead of futures ETF listing

Bitcoin nears record high ahead of futures ETF listing
Getty Images
Updated 19 October 2021

Bitcoin nears record high ahead of futures ETF listing

Bitcoin nears record high ahead of futures ETF listing
  • ProShares' Bitcoin Strategy ETF is expected to list on Tuesday under the ticker BITO

Bitcoin hit a six-month high and was within striking distance of a record on Tuesday as traders bet an anticipated listing of a futures-based U.S. exchange traded fund could herald investment flows into bitcoin and cryptocurrency assets.


Bitcoin, the world's biggest cryptocurrency by market value, rose as far as 1.5 percent during the Asia session to $62,991, its strongest level since the record peak of $64,895 in April.


It is up some 40 percent in October on hopes that the advent of bitcoin exchange traded funds (ETF), of which several are in the works, will allow billions of dollars managed by pension funds and other institutional investors to flow into the sector.


ProShares' Bitcoin Strategy ETF is expected to list on Tuesday under the ticker BITO, provided the U.S. regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, does not object.


Analysts cautioned that the fund will not invest directly in bitcoin - rather in Chicago-traded futures - and so may not have any immediate implications for flows. But speculators have been wagering its launch is a positive signal for spot prices anyway.


Bitcoin futures rose on Tuesday, last trading at $62,690, and spot prices could rise if cash keeps flowing in, said cryptocurrency analysts at Arcane Research.


"This could lead to more constant buying pressure on CME, causing the open interest to rise. This will attract more cash and carry opportunities, leading to buying pressure in the spot market," they said in a note.


Crypto ETFs have launched this year in Canada and Europe amid surging interest in digital assets. VanEck and Valkyrie are among fund managers pursuing U.S.-listed ETF products, although Invesco on Monday dropped its plans for a futures-based ETF.


The Nasdaq on Friday approved the listing of the Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF and Grayscale, the world's largest digital currency manager, is planning to convert its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust into a spot bitcoin ETF, CNBC has reported.


ProShares ETF is set to begin trade on Tuesday after a 75-day period during which the SEC could object to its listing elapsed on Monday.


Ether the second-largest cryptocurrency, has tracked bitcoin's rise and also traded firmly on Tuesday. It was last up 1.2 percent at $3,790.