A missed $23 million interest payment by Kaisa Group Holdings Ltd. (1638) earlier this month puts it at risk of being the first Chinese real estate company to default on its dollar-denominated bonds. That may signal deeper risks for China’s already fragile and corruption-prone property market, which according to World Bank estimates accounts for about 16 percent of economic growth.
Chinese companies comprised 62 percent of all U.S. dollar bond sales in the Asia-Pacific region ex Japan last year, issuing $244.4 billion of the $392.5 billion total, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. BlackRock Inc., the world’s biggest asset manager, owned Kaisa’s 8.875 percent securities due 2018 and the ones the subject of the missed coupon payment, the 10.25 percent 2020s, its latest filing on Jan. 14 shows. Funds managed by JPMorgan Chase & Co., Fidelity Investment and ING Investment Management also held some of Kaisa’s debt at the end of October, according to filings.
“The market has been too complacent,” said Raymond Chia, the Singapore-based head of Asia credit research at Schroder Investment Management Ltd., which had $447.7 billion under management as of Sept. 30. Investors would be “rational to adopt a cautious approach in view of the fact that anything can happen, anywhere, anytime. It would be irrational to continue thinking that after Kaisa none of the companies will see a similar fate.”
Kaisa’s woes began late last year when the government in Shenzhen, less than 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from Hong Kong, blocked approvals of its property sales and new projects in the city. It’s also being probed over alleged links to Jiang Zunyu, the former security chief of Shenzhen who was taken into custody as part of a graft probe, two people familiar with the matter said last week, asking not to be named because the connection hasn’t been made public.
Kaisa missed an interest payment due Jan. 8 on its $500 million of 2020 bonds. The notes were sold to investors at par, or 100 cents on the dollar, in January 2013. In December, when some of Kaisa’s projects were blocked and key executives quit, the debentures lost 40.1 percent. They continued to fall in January, slumping to 29.901 cents on the dollar on Jan. 7, a record low, however have since recovered to trade at about 35.2 cents.
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