Tag: China Evergrande

August 30, 2017


WSJ – Daily Shot: Houston is on some the nation’s least absorbent soil 8/29

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

NYT – Harvey, the Storm That Humans Helped Cause – David Leonhardt 8/29

FT – A happier Japan is a concern for investors – Leo Lewis 8/28

  • “A record 74% of Japanese are satisfied with their lives, and, for the first time in two decades, a majority are content with their income, says a Cabinet Office survey.”
  • “The trouble with all this reported satisfaction, from a market point of view, is that it has happened too early.”
  • “One of the biggest fears is that a too-easily-pleased Japan will lose its hunger for serious reform and salary increases after a couple of years of superficial tinkering. That would undermine many of the big thematic investment cases that have been in place since 2013 — corporate governance reform, womenomics, unwinding of cross-shareholdings and inducing Japanese households to take more investment risk.”
  • On top of that Japanese corporates are basking in the limelight again. “The danger is that, in the glow of public satisfaction they are tending back to the investor-repellent habit of hoarding cash away from the pockets of both their shareholders and employees.”

FT – China’s tech groups are building too much power – Henny Sender 8/28

  • “There is no Silicon Valley comparison to the dominance of Alibaba and Tencent.”

Markets / Economy

FT – US home ownership fall hits young and minorities hardest – Lauren Leatherby 8/28


WSJ – Harvey’s Lessons for America’s Stretched Energy Infrastructure – Spencer Jakab 8/28

  • “For more than 40 years, the U.S. has worried about the security of its oil supply. Hurricane Harvey is another reminder that the infrastructure that processes and delivers oil is in many ways more important.”
  • “The U.S. has 141 operable oil refineries today, which is 79 fewer than 30 years ago. Those refineries have nearly 30% more capacity and are used much more heavily, about 90% on average over the past 12 months. The heaviest concentration is along the Gulf Coast where the industry has deep roots and has been allowed to expand. Harvey has temporarily knocked out about 15% of U.S. refining capacity.”


FT – Wall St’s top bankers sell own groups’ shares as Trump rally reverses – Ben McLannahan 8/27

  • “Wall Street analysts have been urging investors all year to buy stocks in the big US banks. But Wall Street itself is not listening.” 
  • “Executives and board members at the top six US banks have been consistent sellers of their own banks’ shares this year, according to an Financial Times analysis of disclosures tracked by Bloomberg.” 
  • “Insiders at the big six banks by assets — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — have in total sold a net 9.32m shares on the open market since the turn of the year. Even excluding Warren Buffett’s big dumping of shares in Wells in April, to avoid tripping over rules capping ownership by a non-bank, sales by insiders outnumber purchases by about 14 to one.” 
  • “That is an unusually long streak of net sales, across each of the big six. Last year, for example, insiders at JPMorgan, Citigroup and Bank of America bought more shares than they sold.”

Environment / Science

FT – Blue dogs of Mumbai expose poor pollution controls – Simon Mundy 8/28

  • “Roaming packs of stray dogs are an established part of the landscape of Taloja, an industrial district to the north-east of Mumbai. But when a group of them turned blue this month, environmental activists sounded the alarm at this vivid evidence of industrial failure to adhere to proper standards of pollution control.”
  • Photo from National Geographic
  • “Investigation of the phenomenon by Mumbai’s pollution control board (MPCB) led it to a more prosaic explanation: the dogs had wandered into the grounds of a factory run by Ducol Organics, a local paint and plastic producer.”
  • “The outcry over the colored dogs reflects rising concerns about pollution in India. A study in February by the US-based research group Health Effects Institute found that India was poised to overtake China as the country with the most deaths caused by air pollution.” 
  • “A study this year by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai estimated premature deaths due to air pollution in Mumbai rose 62% to 32,014 between 1995 and 2015, outstripping the 41% population increase in the same period.”
  • “In New Delhi — which according to some estimates has the worst air of any major city in the world — the estimated death toll rose 147%, to 48,651.”

Economist – Louisiana fights the sea, and loses 8/26

  • “Between 1932 and 2010 the state [Louisiana] lost more than 1,800 square miles (470,000 hectares) of land to the sea, representing about 80% of America’s coastal erosion over the period. Recent losses have been especially severe because of an increase in big storms raging in from the Gulf of Mexico—such as Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, which led to the inundation of New Orleans and 1,836 deaths. Between 2004 and 2008 alone, Louisiana shrank by more than 300 square miles.”
  • For reference to the Hawaii readers, Oahu is 597 square miles and Maui is 727 square miles.
  • “According to a new report by RAND Corporation, a think-tank, infrastructure in the state worth up to $136bn could be threatened by land loss and increased storm damage, a related threat.”
  • “Starved of silt, and with less new organic matter to counteract its settling, coastal Louisiana is sinking back into its former watery state. Meanwhile, because of melting polar ice caps and thermal expansion, the sea level is rising. In the past decade the observed relative sea-level rise in coastal Louisiana—a figure that combines the effects of rising seas and subsiding land—was over a centimeter a year, or around four times the global average. The delta’s system of land creation has thus been thrown into reverse. In 1930, despite much engineering of the Mississippi’s channel, Louisiana was expanding by almost a square mile a year. Since then, an area the size of Delaware has been lost to the Gulf.”
  • One of the principal causes is due to the levees established by the Army Corps of Engineers along the Mississippi river to protect the flood basins back in the day. Trade-offs…
  • “The damaging effect of the levees was predicted. Weighing the benefits of engineering the Mississippi in 1897, a former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, E.L. Corthell, noted the need to take into account ‘withholding by the levees…of the annual contributions of sedimentary matters” and, because of this, ‘subsidence of the Gulf delta lands below the level of the sea and their gradual abandonment.’ But while he warned that “the present generation should not be selfish,’ Mr Corthell assumed the economic benefits of protecting the flood zone would ‘be so remarkable that people of the whole United States can well afford, when the time comes, to build a protective levee against the Gulf waters.’”
  • “That illustrates two related weaknesses in much environmental policymaking: an assumption that future politicians will take a longer-term view than current ones, and an excessive willingness to discount the future costs of solving environmental problems caused today… In any event, it is doubtful such a scheme would be affordable or otherwise practical, considering the effects of rising sea levels and fiercer storms, both consequences of global warming…”


WSJ – Daily Shot: Datastream – UK Household Savings Ratio 8/29

  • “UK’s households are struggling. With real wage growth in negative territory, the household savings ratio is collapsing.”


WSJ – Evergrande’s Ever More Risky Bet on Chinese Housing – Jacky Wong 8/28

FT – China orders videotaping of retail investment sales – Tom Mitchell 8/29

  • “China’s banking regulator has issued new rules requiring financial institutions to make video and audio recordings of all investment product sales, saying they were needed to ‘further regulate market order and protect customer rights’.” 
  • “The recordings will also help state-owned banks and the government fend off compensation demands from retail customers when their investments turn sour.” 
  • “’If investors make irrational choices after sales staff have clearly explained the risks, then they will have to accept the consequences,’ said Zhao Xijun, a finance professor at Renmin University in Beijing. ‘In the event there is a dispute, the recordings can be used as evidence’.” 
  • “The new surveillance rules issued by the China Banking Regulatory Commission require financial institutions to preserve the recordings for six months after the relevant investment product has expired. Banks are also not allowed to market investments to customers who refuse to be recorded.” 
  • “The value of outstanding [Wealth Management Products] WMPs has soared from Rmb4.6tn ($690bn) at the end of 2011 to Rmb29tn last year, according to data from Wind Information. But year-on-year growth moderated in 2016 to 23%, compared to a 56% increase in the value of outstanding WMPs in 2015.” 
  • “Data for the value of WMP products sold this year are not yet available. In volume terms, Chinese financial institutions sold 43% more WMP contracts through August 25 compared to the same period a year earlier.” 

FT – Huarong chief warns of bubble in China’s distressed debt market – Don Weinland 8/28

  • “Bubbles in credit and real estate have led to a steady flow of bad debt in China for years. But now a bubble is forming in the market for the bad loans themselves, says the chairman of China’s largest state-controlled ‘bad bank’.”
  • “Banks in China are dealing with an onslaught of non-performing loans that have resulted from poor risk controls and years of loose monetary policy. Investors estimate that China’s stock of bad debt has risen to $3tn this year, in step with a decelerating economy. One prominent analyst said recently that the figure could be as high as $6.8tn.”
  • “As the pool of bad assets rises, so too has the number of Chinese investors willing to chase after bad debt portfolios.”
  • “But many of the newcomers had little experience investing in distressed debt and were pushing up prices for the assets at auctions, said Lai Xiaomin, chairman of China Huarong Asset Management, and a deputy to the 12th National People’s Congress.”
  • “Inexperienced investors presented the risk of creating new losses while also failing to resolve troubled loans, he said.”
  • “China has experienced steady deregulation in how distressed debt is bought and sold since the industry was launched 18 years ago.”
  • “Huarong, along with three other centrally controlled asset managers, was created by the ministry of finance in 1999 to absorb perilously high levels of bad debt from China’s largest commercial banks. At the time, the government directed banks to transfer $1.4tn to the four groups.”
  • “Since then, the asset managers have greatly expanded their businesses in China and globally, operating more like investment banks than bad debt investors. Huarong went public in Hong Kong in late 2015.”


Economist – Undue reverence for company founders harms Indian firms 8/26

August 25, 2017


FT – The great Silicon Valley land grab – Richard Waters 8/23

KFF.org – Medicaid and the Opioid Epidemic – Katherine Young and Julia Zur 7/14

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

MarketWatch – Retailers aren’t hurting because people are buying ‘experiences’ instead of stuff – Rex Nutting 8/22

  • “The brick-and-mortar retail industry is in crisis. For many old-line retailers, sales and market share are plunging fast. The most obvious explanation for their distress is the rise of online shopping, but some analysts mistakenly point to another trend: ‘Shoppers are choosing experiences over stuff, and that’s bad news for retailers.’”
  • “Instead of purchasing a couch, we’re going to Paris! Or maybe buying avocado toast.”
  • “The reality is more mundane: We are spending a smaller portion of our budget at the mall, but the money we’re saving is mostly going for the most expensive health care in the universe.”
  • “If you’ve heard these stories about the shift away from material things and toward experiences, you might be shocked to learn that retail spending hit a record $1.4 trillion in the second quarter. Retail spending has increased in 30 of the past 33 quarters. We still love to buy stuff.”
  • “The problem for retailers is that prices are falling for many retail goods such as clothing, electronics, appliances, furniture, tools, luggage, toys and many other things. That is killing the bottom line for traditional retailers, who get less revenue per unit sale but still have to pay the fixed costs of rent and payroll.”
  • “For consumers, on the other hand, falling prices are a godsend, because we can buy even more stuff and still have some money left over to spend on other things.”
  • “It would be great if we really could afford to shift our spending from the boring things we need to the fun things we want, but in reality most of the money we are saving due to cheaper clothes and cheaper gasoline is going for goods and services that no one would call fun: hospital bills, financial services, rent, and prescription drugs.”
  • “Over the past 20 years, there has been a revolution in our spending patterns. Since 1997, Americans have shifted a significant portion of their spending from physical things like autos, clothing and petroleum to services like health care, rent and internet access.”
  • “At the margin, we are spending a little bit more on having fun than we did 20 years ago, but most of our money still goes for necessities, not experiences.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Global Economics Grow in Sync – Josh Zumbrun 8/23

  • “For the first time in a decade, the world’s major economies are growing in sync, a result of lingering low-interest-rate stimulus from central banks and the gradual fading of crises that over years ricocheted from the U.S. to Greece, Brazil and beyond.”
  • “All 45 countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are on track to grow this year, and 33 of them are poised to accelerate from a year ago, according to the OECD. It is the first time since 2007 that all are growing and the most countries in acceleration since 2010, when many nations enjoyed a fleeting snapback from the global financial crisis.”
  • “In the past 50 years, simultaneous growth among all the OECD-tracked countries has been rare. In addition to happening last decade, it has only happened in the late 1980s, and for a few years before the 1973 oil crisis.”


FT – What happened to the ‘too big to fail’ banks? – Patrick Jenkins and Ian Bott 8/23


FT – Back to the future for China tycoon sweepstakes – Gabriel Wildau 8/23

  • “To be a Chinese tycoon these days is to live with uncertainty: while some see their wealth and status rise meteorically, others fall out of favor with Beijing — with serious consequences for their wealth and freedom.”
  • “Led by chairman Hui Ka-yan, Shenzhen-based Evergrande has seen its share price almost quadruple this year. Shares in Sunac China, led by Sun Hongbin, have nearly tripled. The price rises have catapulted both up the ranks of China’s rich list.”
  • “By contrast, last year’s upwardly mobile tycoons, Wu Xiaohui of Anbang Insurance and Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda, who seemed to represent China’s future as a global investor as they snapped up foreign real estate and entertainment assets, are on the defensive.”
  • “’If you look at Sun Hongbin, he sells bonds offshore and brings the money onshore to build houses. It’s different from Wanda, which borrows from banks onshore to invest offshore. That’s much more sensitive,’ said Yang Guoying, researcher at China Financial Think Tank and a popular commentator on Weibo.”
  • “Offshore investors have a strong appetite for Evergrande’s high-yield debt, despite persistent warnings from analysts and short sellers that the group is highly leveraged. It is a high-risk bet that keeps paying off.”
  • “Evergrande’s net debt of $48bn at the end of last year was the highest among Chinese listed developers, according to data from Thomson Reuters.” 
  • “Tianjin-based Sunac ranked eighth with $8.8bn, and that was before its recent, largely debt-financed deal to buy 13 theme parks from Wanda for $6.5bn. Sunac has spent more than $17.5bn on acquisitions since the start of 2016, according to Dealogic.”
  • “’All these big private enterprises have something in common, which is that they’ve grown very big, very fast, and they’ve done it through debt sales and bank loans,’ said Ai Tangming, chief economics columnist for Sina Finance, a major domestic news website. ‘But Evergrande and Sunac have handled their government relations extremely well, and it’s paying off.’”


WSJ – Daily Shot: Euro Area GDP 8/24

June 12, 2017

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

WSJ – The Cushion That Saved Taxpayers From Banco Popular’s Failure – Paul Davies 6/7

  • “Regulators can make a determination that a bank is failing or likely to fail with information that investors don’t have. Regulators shouldn’t act too early, but it is right that they should act when waiting threatens the integrity of the financial system or a drawdown of public money. Any investor who doesn’t understand that should steer clear of bank equity and debt. Period.”

The Big Picture: Bloomberg – Jim Chanos on Tesla, China 6/7

  • Interview

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: Green Street Commercial Property Index 6/9

FT – Real estate: The global luxury condo glut – Anna Dedhar 6/8

  • Podcast


WSJ – Daily Shot: EIA – Total US Effective Rig Count 6/9


FT – LeEco’s listed arm cancels bond fundraising – Emily Feng 6/8

  • “A bond sale (meant to raise Rmb2bn – $300m) by the Shenzhen-listed arm of embattled company LeEco has been cancelled, after the group was asked to address regulators’ concerns about the health of its financials.”

WSJ – Beijing Lands in Another Debt Mess – Anjani Trivedi 6/9

WSJ – Perpetual Doesn’t Mean Forever in China – Jacky Wong 6/8

  • “Chinese companies growing appetite tapping an unconventional source of financing might not be a source of eternal bliss.”
  • “Perpetual securities, bondlike instruments that pay interest but have no maturity dates, have become popular in China in recent years: Issuance jumped to $55 billion in 2016 from less than $1 billion in 2012, according to Dealogic. This year, Chinese companies have been keener to issue them in offshore markets, raising some $4.4 billion, more than their dollar-denominated issuance in all of 2016.”
  • “A big reason Chinese companies like perpetuals is that they are classified as equity on their balance sheets. The accounting logic is that perpetual issuers don’t ever have to repay the bond’s principal and can choose to defer annual coupon payments—making them similar to dividends.”
  • “Treating perpetuals as equity means companies can report lower gearing ratios, a measure investors commonly use to assess a company’s indebtedness. China Evergrande, the country’s biggest property developer by assets, had a net debt-to-equity ratio of 120% as of December. That ratio would have jumped to 432% if its perpetual bonds had been counted as debt. Investors are happy to play along as the perpetuals usually pay higher yields. Evergrande effectively paid an 11% coupon on its perpetuals last year.”
  • “But whatever the accounting rules say, perpetual securities still work much more like debt than equity in China. To start with, companies can defer coupon payments on perpetuals only if they aren’t paying dividends to their shareholders. Given that Chinese companies often have a majority shareholder, and therefore nearly always pay a dividend, that clause rarely applies.”
  • “Moreover, perpetuals in China often include a clause that automatically steps up the coupon rate, usually after three to five years. Since the step-up is usually quite steep, issuers have a strong incentive to redeem their perpetuals early—making them not so perpetual, after all. The coupon on a recent $500 million perpetual bond issue from state-owned Power Construction Corp. of China will jump by 5 percentage points, more than double its initial yield, after five years.”
  • “Investors hoping to live happily ever after with perpetuals ought to scrutinize why companies are issuing such disguised debt in the first place—and whether it is really in their interests.”

FT – Chinese regulators target staff shareholding plans – Gabriel Wildau and Nan Ma 6/9

  • “The Shenzhen Stock Exchange is querying listed companies about a series of unusual plans to sell shares to employees while insuring them against losses if stock prices fall.”
  • “At least 21 Shenzhen-listed companies announced employee shareholding plans in the first week of June that include guarantees by the chairman or senior executives to protect workers against downside risk, according to exchange filings compiled from Wind Information.” 
  • “While it is not yet clear whether such plans will enable large shareholders to sell directly to employees, market observers still view them as a response to the tighter rules. With stake sales more difficult to execute, large shareholders are looking for ways to boost their share prices, at least until they can find ways to offload their shares.”

NYT – China’s New Bridges: Rising High, but Buried in Debt – Chris Buckley 6/10

Middle East

FT – Crisis in the Gulf: Qatar faces a stress test – Simeon Kerr 6/9

South America

WSJ – Daily Shot: Caracas Stock Exchange 6/9

  • “Venezuela’s stock market has gone ‘vertical’ as it becomes the only legal ‘safe-haven’ to escape the currency collapse.”

FT – Venezuela woes on paying Russia debt raise prospect of default – Jonathan Wheatley and Robin Wigglesworth 6/9

  • “Reports of a failure to pay a debt to Russia and a requested ruling on whether such a failure constitutes a ‘credit event’ that could trigger insurance contracts on billions of dollars of international bonds have brought Venezuela closer than ever to the brink of financial collapse.”
  • “Matters may soon come to a head. On Wednesday, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, an umbrella organization of the finance industry’s biggest banks and money managers, was asked by an anonymous member whether the reported default to Russia should be classified as a ‘credit event’ and trigger insurance-like contracts on Venezuela’s roughly $36bn in sovereign bonds.”
  • “The ISDA ruling may take some time. And even if it decides a credit event has occurred, there would be no automatic default on Venezuela’s sovereign bonds.”
  • “But it is clear from the terms of those bonds that should the government fail to meet any other debt obligations, bondholders can demand immediate payment.”
  • “Should the sovereign bonds then go into default, the roughly $35bn of outstanding PDVSA bonds would not be affected, and may even be left intact. The government in Caracas almost certainly would not.”

April 24, 2017

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – Venezuela’s broken system cannot fix itself – Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez 4/23

FT – Silicon Valley ‘superstars’ risk a populist backlash – Rana Foroohar 4/23

  • “…a spate of research shows that it is not trade or rapacious bankers but technology that is the primary economic driver of the most important political trend of our time – populism.”
  • “What is perhaps most fascinating about this is that Silicon Valley has largely escaped the populist anger that Wall Street or cheap Chinese labor has attracted. As University of Chicago professor Raghuram Rajan has pointed out, this may be because the job-disrupting effects of technology are harder to see than those of trade. Of the nearly 6m manufacturing jobs lost in the US between 1999 and 2011, only about 10% can be directly traced to Chinese imports – yet those losses are concentrated in just a few rust belt communities. The more subtle, dispersed nature of the changes driven by Silicon Valley makes it a less obvious target for voter rage. And of course, we all love our gadgets: remember Democratic Senator Carl Levin mooning over his iPhone even as he led Senate hearings into Apple’s use of offshore tax havens in 2013?”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – The Economy’s Confidence Game – Justin Lahart 4/23

  • “The bullish case is that newly optimistic consumers and business owners will soon start spending, boosting economic data. This is generally what happens when the economy is coming out of recession, with the hard data following the soft data higher.”
  • “But the economy isn’t coming out of a recession-the last one ended nearly eight years ago. Instead, the country has experienced a long period of rising employment and disappointing but steady growth. The pent-up demand that exists in the aftermath of a downturn isn’t there. And the mere possibility of lower taxes and faster growth hasn’t changed the caution that consumers and businesses learned since the financial crisis.”
  • “The clock is ticking says Bank of the West economist Scott Anderson. Historically, when the hard data doesn’t pick up within a month or two of the move higher in the soft data, the soft data tends to tumble.”

Real Estate

ULI – Trepp Talk: Nontraded REITs Raise Lowest Volume of Capital in 14 Years – Orest Mandzy 4/24

  • “The departure of AR Global Investments from the nontraded real estate investment trust (REIT) world, coupled with uncertainty surrounding substantial pending regulations, has put a sizable damper on the ability of the nontraded REIT sector to raise capital. According to Summit Investment Research, $4.8 billion of equity was raised by sponsors of 35 entities last year. That was the lowest volume in 14 years, and pales in comparison to the $10.2 billion of equity that was raised in 2015.”
  • At its height, the sector raised over $20 billion in 2013. “American Realty-by then known as AR Capital-was responsible for more than one-third of that total.”

WSJ – Brick-and-Mortar Stores Are Shuttering at a Record Pace – Suzanne Kapner 4/21


BloombergGadfly – Oil Drillers’ Vanishing Safety Net – Lisa Abramowicz 4/18

  • “A lot of companies view revolving credit lines the way some rock climbers view harnesses and ropes: They would rather not use them, but they’re glad to have them when trouble strikes.” 
  • “So it’s worth paying attention when a corporation starts withdrawing a substantial amount of money under these prearranged agreements with banks. This can signal a significant problem.”
  • “For example, consider last fall, when more than 20 energy companies had borrowed more than two-thirds of their limit on their credit lines, according to Spencer Cutter, a senior credit analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. More than four of those have since filed for bankruptcy. The degree of distress last year wasn’t surprising given the sharp plunge in oil prices that started in 2014. A mounting number of energy companies were forced to sell assets, restructure or file for bankruptcy.”
  • Well things have gotten better since then right? Yes, but… there are “at least 11 oil and gas producers are using 70 percent or more of their borrowing-base credit lines, according to Cutter. That includes smaller companies such as Trinity River Energy, Yuma Energy and Mid-Con Energy, and some larger ones such as Sanchez Production Partners and California Resources.”
  • “Over the next few weeks, companies will start announcing their new revolving credit agreements. Investors shouldn’t be surprised at some bad news for smaller energy companies that still haven’t fortified their balance sheets. Just because oil prices have stabilized and even marginally increased doesn’t mean that there won’t be additional rounds of energy-related bankruptcies and restructurings in the near future.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Baker Hughes US Oil Rig Count 4/23

WSJ – Daily Shot: US Rig Count Recovery Index – Historical Reference 4/23


FT – China’s fight with Visa and MasterCard goes global – Don Weinland and Gabriel Wildau 4/23

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – Commercial and Industrial Loans, All Commercial Banks 4/23

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – Consumer Loans, Auto Loans 4/23


WSJ – A Chinese Property Stock Surge That Is Set to Crumble – Jacky Wong 4/24

  • “China’s bubble-prone property sector isn’t known for its stability. Even so, a 42% rise in the Hong Kong-listed shares of the country’s biggest property developer, China Evergrande Group, over the past month, is striking. Sadly for investors, it’s built on very shaky foundations.”