Nov 08, 2018 11:21 AM

China Has More Distressed Corporate Debt Than All Emerging Markets Combined

(Bloomberg) — In the span of just 11 months, China went from having no distressed dollar-denominated corporate bonds to having more than any other emerging market.

The world’s second-biggest economy has 15 bonds whose option-adjusted spreads over U.S. Treasuries were above 1,000 basis points as of Nov. 6, according to a Bloomberg Barclays index. That’s more than all the other nations combined.

An ongoing trade war and slower economic growth after years of breakneck expansion are straining the nation’s highly-leveraged corporate sector. Property developers in particular are facing surging borrowing costs as refinancing pressures intensify amid the government’s effort to rein in real estate prices.

At least four property-related firms defaulted on debt this year, and investors are bracing for more. China Evergrande Group, the country’s second largest builder by sales, priced a dollar bond at 13.75% last week, the highest interest rate it has ever paid on a dollar issue, according to Bloomberg data.

China’s debt, both distressed and otherwise, account for a quarter of all securities included in the gauge, which tracks about 660 dollar notes with a par value of at least $500 million. The Asian nation is home to the developing world’s biggest bond market.

The jump in China’s distressed bonds helped fuel an increase in borrowing costs for emerging-market company debt to the highest level in more than two years. The impact of the trade war on the Asian nation has compounded pressure on developing assets, which were already reeling under the strain of higher U.S. interest rates and Treasury yields.

Brazil has the second-highest number of distressed bonds in the index, with three, while Jamaica and Russia are tied in third place with two securities each. A debt is typically considered under immense pressure if its spread above the risk-free rate is 1,000 basis points or more.

There are also a growing number of corporate notes whose spreads are gradually entering the danger zone. This year there are 12 bonds on the Barclays Bloomberg index whose option-adjusted spreads were between 800 to 999 basis points, up from two at the end of 2017.

Contact editor Yang Ge (

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