David Rosenberg, Rosenberg Research president, joins The Exchange to discuss the abatement of the fear that Evergrande’s default is China’s "Lehman moment." For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO: https://cnb.cx/2NGeIvi
Property developer China Evergrande’s debt woes are not likely to cause the same fallout as the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008, analysts said.
Evergrande’s Hong Kong-listed shares have tumbled nearly 90% since July 2020, as the Chinese government cracked down on speculation in the real estate market.
The stock has lost more than 20% in the last five trading days, and investors are watching to see if the highly indebted real estate giant will be able to make millions of dollars in interest payments on U.S. dollar-denominated bonds in the coming days. The jitters have contributed to global stock market declines this week.
Evergrande holds physical assets
However, when it comes to the scale of potential impact on international financial markets, analysts point to a major difference between the Evergrande crisis and the Lehman collapse: Evergrande holds land, while Lehman held financial assets.
Evergrande has cash flow problems, but talk of systemic risks is “a bit overdone, frankly,” Rob Carnell, regional head of research for Asia-Pacific at ING, said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”
“Let’s face it, this is not Lehman’s, this is not LTCM,” Carnell said, referring to American hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management, which failed in the 1990s. and spurred a panic. “It’s not a hedge fund with massive leveraged positions or a bank whose financial asset prices are hurtling towards zero. It’s a property development firm with quite a lot of debt, you know, 300 billion plus thereabouts in dollar terms.”
He expects that if Evergrande can get some cash flow into its physical assets, the company can finish its development projects, sell them and start paying down debt.
On Wednesday, the company’s real estate group announced it would pay the interest on time on a mainland-traded bond denominated in yuan.
“Evergrande is facing a liquidity crunch although it owns a large land bank,” Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie, said in a report Tuesday. He noted that the developer’s assets consist primarily of land and housing projects that are worth just over 1.4 trillion yuan ($220 billion).
The collapse of Lehman Brothers led to a crash in financial derivatives — credit-default swaps and collateralized-debt obligations — “causing the market to doubt the health of other banks,” Hu said.
“But it’s quite unlikely that the Evergrande saga would cause the land price to crash,” he said. “After all, the value of land is simply more transparent and stable than financial instruments. It’s especially so in China, where local government monopolizes the land supply.”
“As the result, [the] local government has a strong incentive to stabilize land price. In the worst-case scenario, local government could even buy back land, as they did in 2014-15,” he added.
Strong government control
Another critical difference in Evergrande’s case is the greater level of government control and involvement in China’s real estate industry.
“Chinese banks and many other entities are government arms first, intermediators a distant second,” analysts at research firm China Beige Book said in a report Monday. “Even non-state financials can be controlled to an extent rarely seen outside China. Commercial bankruptcy is a state choice.”
“Beijing says lend, so you lend; when or even whether you get your money back is secondary,” the report said. “No Lehman-style contagion story makes sense here and therefore no Lehman Moment will there be.”
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