Investors brace for rough ride as Evergrande faces coupon payment deadline

Investors brace for rough ride as Evergrande faces coupon payment deadline
With liabilities of $305 billion, Evergrande has sparked concerns its problems could spread through China’s financial system and reverberate around the world. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 29 September 2021

Investors brace for rough ride as Evergrande faces coupon payment deadline

Investors brace for rough ride as Evergrande faces coupon payment deadline
  • Evergrande plans to sell a 9.99 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) stake it owns in Shengjing Bank Co. Ltd. to a state-owned asset management company

HONG KONG: China Evergrande Group faces its next test in public markets with the deadline for a bond coupon payment to offshore investors on Wednesday, as the cash-strapped property developer scrambles to sell some of its assets.
With liabilities of $305 billion, Evergrande has sparked concerns its problems could spread through China’s financial system and reverberate around the world — a worry that has eased as damage has so far been concentrated in the property sector.
Evergrande plans to sell a 9.99 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) stake it owns in Shengjing Bank Co. Ltd. to a state-owned asset management company, the developer said on Wednesday in an exchange filing.
Shengjing Bank, one of the main lenders to Evergrande, had demanded that all net proceeds from the disposal be applied to settle the financial liabilities of the developer due to the lender, it said.
The move underscores how Evergrande, once China’s top-selling developer and now expected to be one of the largest-ever restructurings in the country, is prioritising domestic creditors over offshore bondholders.
The company missed a payment deadline on a dollar bond last week, a day after its main property business in China said it had privately negotiated with onshore bondholders to settle a separate coupon payment on a yuan-denominated bond.
The company is due on Wednesday to make a $47.5 million bond interest payment on its 9.5 percent March 2024 dollar bond.
Evergrande’s silence on its offshore payment obligations has left global investors wondering if they will have to swallow large losses when a 30-day grace period ends for the last week and Wednesday’s coupon payment deadlines.
A spokesperson for Evergrande did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.
“We are in the wait and see phase at the moment. The creditors are organizing themselves and people are trying to figure out how this falling knife might be caught,” said an adviser hired by one of the offshore Evergrande bondholders.
“They failed to pay last week, I think they will probably fail to pay this one. That doesn’t mean necessarily they’re not going to pay ... they’ve got the 30-day grace period,” said the adviser declining to be named due to sensitivity of the issue.
Government prodding
Once the face of China’s frenzied building boom, Evergrande has now become the face of a crackdown on developers’ debts that has spurred volatility in global markets and left large and small investors sweating their exposure.
Evergrande’s troubles slammed global stock markets earlier this month.
In the weeks since, some global investors have shifted their focus to political wrangling in Washington over the US debt ceiling and a rise in Treasury yields that has pressured stocks.
Any negative surprise by Evergrande could give stock market bears more ammunition.
Beijing is prodding government-owned firms and state-backed property developers such as China Vanke Co. Ltd. to purchase some of Evergrande’s assets, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Authorities are hoping that asset purchases will ward off or at least mitigate any social unrest that could occur if Evergrande were to suffer a messy collapse, they said, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.
On Monday, China’s central bank vowed to protect consumers exposed to the housing market, without mentioning Evergrande in a statement posted to its website, and injected more cash into the banking system.
Those moves have boosted investor sentiment toward Chinese property stocks in the last couple of days, with Evergrande stock rising as much as 15 percent on Wednesday.


Jeddah music center promotes Kingdom’s nascent entertainment sector

Jeddah music center promotes Kingdom’s nascent entertainment sector
Updated 49 min 43 sec ago

Jeddah music center promotes Kingdom’s nascent entertainment sector

Jeddah music center promotes Kingdom’s nascent entertainment sector
  • Music has become not just an integral part of daily life, but a dynamic new economic sector
  • Jeddah-based Makan Music Center has become a focal point of the Kingdom’s burgeoning music scene.

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s music industry has seen rapid growth from a standing start, largely due to the Vision 2030 reform plan, which positions entertainment front and center in the diversification of the Kingdom’s economy away from oil and its derivatives.

The General Entertainment Authority was established in 2016 with a mission to “provide recreational opportunities for all segments of society...to enrich lives and to spread joy.” It is doing just that with spectacular mega-events like Riyadh Season.

And with the relaxation of social norms in the Kingdom, music has become not just an integral part of daily life, but a dynamic new economic sector.

Numerous KSA-based companies are getting in on the act, via a spectrum of platforms: TV, Internet, social media, streaming services such as Lebanon-based Anghami (focused on Middle East-origin music) and live performance.

Saudi promoters such as Benchmark and AK Events have brought major international stars to local audiences. Mariah Carey, the Black Eyed Peas and Enrique Iglesias have all performed in the Kingdom, prior to the COVID-19 epidemic putting a temporary halt on public gatherings.

Jeddah-based Makan Music Center, which offers a full range of musical services, is a focal point of the Kingdom’s burgeoning music scene.

The center’s General Manager Shaher Karkashan, 32, founded the center with his musician colleagues in 2018.

He told Arab News: “Our goal was to create a hub for musicians. And our vision is to enable an individual to go the full circle with us — from learning an instrument to recording original material and then presenting his or her music to a live audience.

“That’s the goal, for both boys and girls — and surprisingly, over 60 percent of our clients are female.”

Such activities are crucial for the incubation of Saudi musical performers in order to supply high quality content to an industry hungry for new talent.

The center was initially launched with just two rooms — a recording studio and a jamming and learning space.

Three years on, it occupies an entire 400-square meter building divided into an eight-room teaching area, a 250-capacity auditorium and a recording studio.

Clients can learn a variety of instruments, including guitar, violin and drums, along with vocals. The typical age of musicians is 15 to 40, although some are aged 50 and above.

The center also provides equipment, talent and management services for indoor and outdoor corporate events, staged in malls and other public spaces, attracting audiences of up to 2,000.

Karkashan said that as the center has grown, it has become a more professional outfit with a robust business model and several income streams: tuition, ticketed concerts, artist management, equipment hire and corporate events.

He said: “We started with five employees — and now we are 20 and growing. We have six departments, including human resources, accounting and sales, and we’re hiring more people.”

While the KSA’s music industry – specifically live performance — was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the future outlook appears positive. With the Kingdom’s health situation returning to normal, forthcoming live events include the appearance of Justin Bieber, A$AP Rocky and Jason Derulo, who are set to headline post-race concerts at this weekend’s inaugural Formula 1 Grand Prix in Jeddah. Industry players are hoping that this progress will not be impeded by the omicron COVID-19 variant.

Health conditions permitting, Karkashan and his associates are also planning a large new year concert as part of the port city’s Jeddah Season festivities.
Such activities were unheard of in the Kingdom even a few years ago, and Karkashan noted that the changes stemmed from the Vision 2030 reforms.

“Saudi Arabia had some major artists back in the 1980s, after which there was a huge 30-year gap,” he added.

“Then we started seeing a few Saudis performing on TV shows like ‘Star Academy’ and ‘Arab’s Got Talent’ — but they went on to work in Kuwait or the Emirates, because there was no opportunity for them to develop in Saudi Arabia.

“Now things have changed. The Ministry of Culture is involved, there’s the Entertainment Authority, even a Music Authority, and they are all helping to develop the KSA’s music industry.

“I think potentially big names will soon emerge in Saudi Arabia. They are under development now, and we will probably see them go mainstream in around 2023.”

Some of Makan’s clients have come together to form bands — one called Robin and another Bad Reception — and the center has also allowed more established acts, such as death metal outfit Wasted Land, to record and perform their own material.

Karkashan said that he is optimistic about the future of Makan as well as Saudi Arabia’s music sector as a whole.

He pointed out that he was focused on three main areas of growth: artist management, staging bigger outdoor events and opening new centers in Riyadh and other cities in the Kingdom.

“Five years ago, it was all very different. But now aspiring musicians have our full support as well as support from the media and the government.

“And social media really opens up huge possibilities. Many young people are passionate about learning music or starting a band or a career in music, and this is definitely the right time to do it.”

The Saudi music industry is slated to see exponential growth over the next decade and the Makan Music Center will surely play a part in that, both artistically and commercially.


Elon Musk’s Tesla share sales pass $10bn

Elon Musk’s Tesla share sales pass $10bn
Updated 03 December 2021

Elon Musk’s Tesla share sales pass $10bn

Elon Musk’s Tesla share sales pass $10bn
  • Musk sold a further $1.01 billion according to a regulatory filing on Thursday

RIYADH: Elon Musk offloaded $1.01 billion worth of Tesla shares, surpassing $10 billion in over the past month, as he seeks to sell 10 percent of his stake in the electric-car maker.

Musk got rid of about 934,000 shares in the latest transaction, according to regulatory filings dated Thursday.

The world’s richest person is aiming to offset taxes on the exercise of about 2.1 million options, Bloomberg reported.

Musk is the richest person in the world with a $284.1 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

His wealth has surged by $128.1 billion this year with Tesla shares having climbed 54 percent.


UAE financial literacy app raises $400,000 in pre-seed, prepares for $1.5m seed round

UAE financial literacy app raises $400,000 in pre-seed, prepares for $1.5m seed round
Updated 03 December 2021

UAE financial literacy app raises $400,000 in pre-seed, prepares for $1.5m seed round

UAE financial literacy app raises $400,000 in pre-seed, prepares for $1.5m seed round
  • Edfundo is set to launch in the UAE in 2022

RIYADH: UAE-based Edfundo, a children’s financial literacy app, looks to raise $1.5 million in seed funding to grow its team, bolster its growth in its home market, and expand across the MENA region.

This follows the closing of the initial friends and family funding round that was 12.5 percent over-subscribed and raised $400,000, Edfundo said on its website.

The co-founders of Edfundo, the world’s first teacher-curated smart money management app for tweens and teens, which is due for launch in the UAE in 2022, have opened the next $1.5 million funding round with a target to close it during the next year.

Founded by CEO Simon Wing and COO Andrew Toward, Edfundo allows children to manage their finances through its money management platform app.

The first-round funding means Edfundo can connect swiftly with youngsters and parents and engage in crucial conversations around smart money management, Toward said.


Saudi Competition Authority approves joint venture to sell, distribute Gucci products

Saudi Competition Authority approves joint venture to sell, distribute Gucci products
Updated 03 December 2021

Saudi Competition Authority approves joint venture to sell, distribute Gucci products

Saudi Competition Authority approves joint venture to sell, distribute Gucci products
  • G Distribution will own 75 percent of the shares in the company, while Al Rubaiyat Company will own 25 percent

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Competition gave the green light for a joint venture between G Distribution B.V and Al Rubaiyat Co. for Industry & Trade Holding to sell and distribute Gucci products in the Kingdom.

G Distribution Company will own 75 percent of the shares in the company, while Al Rubaiyat Company will own 25 percent, Argaam reported.

The Kingdom’s competition authority has approved 13 joint projects since the beginning of this year.


Saudi Arabia hosts first National Forum for Islamic Banking on Dec. 6

Saudi Arabia hosts first National Forum for Islamic Banking on Dec. 6
Updated 03 December 2021

Saudi Arabia hosts first National Forum for Islamic Banking on Dec. 6

Saudi Arabia hosts first National Forum for Islamic Banking on Dec. 6

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is hosting its first National Forum for Islamic Banking on Dec. 6 and 7 in Riyadh, titled "Kingdom's Leadership in Islamic Banking.”

Participants in the forum will discuss the impact of Islamic banking on economic development, the Kingdom’s regulations in Islamic banking, Islamic digital banking in Saudi Arabia and the role of Islamic banks in entrepreneurship, among other discussions.

This comes in light of the rapid growth of the Islamic financial industry since its inception at the global level.

Islamic banking assets in the Kingdom reached more than $565 billion by the first quarter of 2021, SPA reported.