Caixin
Nov 12, 2020 08:26 PM
DAILY CHART

Charts of the Day: Toll Road Operators Move Back Into Revenue Fast Lane

The investor ratings for China’s major toll road companies have improved as their financial performances improve in line with recovery in traffic volumes and scrapping of a temporary toll-free policy.

Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the nation’s six major government-owned toll road operators from negative to stable in its November ratings, citing higher vehicle volumes and resumption of tolls.

Traffic volume on China’s expressways increased 5.4% year-on-year from May 6 to October 26, according to data from the Ministry of Transportation. The government lifted a temporary nationwide toll-free policy on May 6 after imposing it in February in support of Covid-19 control measures.

The resumption of fees on vehicles has helped the toll road companies reverse their downward profit trends from the first quarter.

Anhui Transportation Holding Group Co. Ltd., which operates over 90% of expressways in the eastern province of Anhui, reported a profit in the third quarter after losing some 2 billion yuan ($302.1 million) in the January to March period.

Guangzhou Communications Investment Group and Shenzhen Expressway Co. Ltd., two powerful toll road companies in the affluent southern Guangdong province, all posted positive results in the second quarter after losing millions of yuan earlier in the year.

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Moody’s predicted the toll road companies will receive local government compensation for loss of revenue caused by the toll-free policy through concession extensions on toll projects.

The debt-to-asset ratios of the trio — all rated by Moody’s — remain stable despite earnings fluctuations. Moody’s forecast these companies’ debt burden to be partly eased by potential greater fiscal support. With sustained low interest rates and a looser credit environment, the credit rater expects them to maintain sound liquidity and have their financial risks under control.

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The ratings agency remains optimistic about the sector’s development, citing possible strengthening of China’s transportation and logistics networks by the central government.

Contact reporter Lu Yutong (yutonglu@caixin.com)

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