Chinese developers slump as Shimao bond plunge spooks investors

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) -A sudden drop in the bonds of developer Shimao Group Holdings sparked a broader sell-off amid renewed concern over the health of Chinese property firms.

Chinese junk bonds fell two cents after Shimao’s dollar bonds dropped as much as 10 cents on the dollar, according to credit traders. Trading was halted in three of the company’s renminbi bonds after they plunged. Its Hong Kong-listed shares tumbled almost 14 per cent, poised for their biggest loss since 2008.

Adding to the bearish sentiment, the Communist Party’s top decision makers reiterated the phrase that “housing is for living in, not for speculation” at the end of a three-day annual Central Economic Work Conference. The phrase had not been used in Politburo’s preparatory meeting last week.

The addition clarifies “overly optimistic views” about outright easing of property policies, said Mr Bruce Pang, head of macro-economy and strategy research at China Renaissance Securities Hong Kong. “I don’t think China will completely relax property policies,” he said.

Shimao was the biggest loser on a Bloomberg Intelligence stock index of real estate firms, which slid 1.7 per cent. The firm’s dollar bond due 2022 fell five cents on the dollar to 83 cents, Bloomberg-compiled prices show.

The declines broke the buoyant mood that dominated trading last week, when yields on Chinese junk dollar bonds fell the most in seven years. Beijing’s shift toward pro-growth policies had helped counter the long-anticipated defaults by China Evergrande Group and Kaisa Group Holdings.

Shimao is China’s 13th biggest developer by contracted sales and among the largest property debt issuers with about US$10.1 billion (S$13.8 billion) in outstanding local and offshore bonds. The company has a junk Ba1 long-term rating from Moody’s Investors Service and is on review for a further downgrade.

Shimao lost its investment-grade rating at S&P Global Ratings last month, but has an investment-grade rank of BBB- at Fitch Ratings. A bond issued by one of Shimao’s local units suffered the largest haircut in China’s exchange-traded repo market last week, according to Bloomberg-compiled data.

Borrowers putting up a Shanghai Shimao Jianshe note due 2025 for collateral get just 35 per cent of the note’s face value as cash, down from 50 per cent the prior week.

Shimao’s contracted sales will be weaker than S&P previously forecast due to “tough” business conditions, while the company may struggle to deleverage in the next 12 months, the credit assessor said on Nov 10.

China’s property developers remain under pressure from slowing sales and a wall of bond maturities coming due in January, according to Citigroup analysts. That means credit stress has yet to reach a maximum and weaker firms are likely to default, the analysts said.

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