China Local Debts Dwarf Official Data Prompting Too-Big-to-Complete Alarm
A copy of Manhattan, complete with Rockefeller and Lincoln centers and what passes for the Hudson River, is under construction an hour’s train ride from Beijing. And like New York City in the 1970s, it may need a bailout.
Debt accumulated by companies financing local governments such as Tianjin, home to the New York lookalike project, is rising, a survey of Chinese-language bond prospectuses issued this year indicates. It also suggests the total owed by all such entities likely dwarfs the count by China’s national auditor and figures disclosed by banks.
Bloomberg News tallied the debt disclosed by all 231 local government financing companies that sold bonds, notes or commercial paper through Dec. 10 this year. The total amounted to 3.96 trillion yuan ($622 billion), mostly in bank loans, more than the current size of the European bailout fund.
There are 6,576 of such entities across China, according to a June count by the National Audit Office, which put their total debt at 4.97 trillion yuan. That means the 231 borrowers studied by Bloomberg have alone amassed more than three-quarters of the overall debt.
The fact so few of the companies have accumulated that much debt suggests a bigger problem, says Fraser Howie, the Singapore-based managing director of CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets who has written two books on China’s financial system.
“You should be more worried than you think,” he said of Bloomberg’s findings. “Certainly more worried than the banks will tell you.
“You know how this story ends — badly,” he said.
The findings suggest China is failing to curb borrowing that one central bank official has said will slow growth in the world’s second-largest economy if not controlled. With prices dropping in China’s real estate market, economists warn that local authorities won’t be able to repay their debt because of poor cash flow and falling revenue from land sales they rely on for much of their income.
Provinces and cities are going deeper into the red to finish projects, from the Manhattan on the east coast, to highways in northwestern Gansu and a stadium fronted by Olympic rings in Hunan, central China. Many were started as part of China’s stimulus program to beat the 2009 world recession. The financing companies accounted for almost half of the 10.7 trillion yuan in all local government debt tallied by the official audit.
The 231 borrowers whose public filings were reviewed by Bloomberg raised a combined 354.1 billion yuan by selling securities this year. They have credit lines from banks of at least 2.3 trillion yuan that have yet to be drawn down, the documents show.
And in other news from Bloomberg:
China’s November Home Prices Post Worst Performance This Year Amid Curbs
China’s home prices posted their worst performance this year with more than half of the 70 biggest cities monitored in November recording declines after the government reiterated plans to maintain property curbs.
New home prices dropped from the previous month in 49 of the cities monitored by the government, compared with 33 posting decreases in October, the national statistics bureau said in a statement on its website yesterday. Only five cities had gains in home prices, according to the statement.
“Home prices will fall further as the government’s tightening continues,” said Jinsong Du, a Hong Kong-based property analyst for Credit Suisse Group AG. “We’ll see more small developers file for bankruptcy or sell off their assets next year.”
Hmmmm. About Saxo Bank’s “Outrageous Prediction” #4 that we saw yesterday:
4 – AUSTRALIA GOES INTO RECESSION
The Chinese locomotive has been losing steam throughout 2011 as investment and real estate led growth becomes harder and harder to come by due to diminishing marginal returns. The effects of the slowing of the up-and-coming Asian giant ripple through Asia Pacific and push other countries into recession. If there ever was a country dependent on the well-being of China it is Australia with its heavy dependence on mining and natural resources. And as China’s demand for these goods weakens Australia is pushed into a recession, which is then exacerbated as the housing sector finally experiences its long overdue crash – a half decade after the rest of the developed world.
Not so outrageous, methinks.
Indeed, precisely what we have long been forewarning.