Asia

China Evergrande Group’s pledge to remake itself as a leaner company with a focus on controlled growth has been met with skepticism, with analysts concerned margins will suffer and others saying investors need more clarity, Bloomberg News reported. China’s most indebted developer unveiled a three-year plan on Tuesday titled ‘Growing Sales, Controlled Scale & Reduced Leverage’. The aggressive strategy includes cutting total debt load by 50%, boosting sales and trimming its land bank. Evergrande also Tuesday reported its first fall in annual profit in four years.

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Foreign investors sold a record $16bn of Indian stocks and bonds in March as the economic tumult caused by coronavirus prompted a flight from emerging markets, the Financial Times reported. The selling by overseas investors came during a dire month for India’s financial markets. The Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex index fell 23 per cent in March to its lowest level since 2017, while the rupee dropped to a record low of more than 76 to the dollar. Foreign investors sold Rs620bn ($8.2bn) of equities in March and Rs603bn in bonds, according to data from India’s securities depositories.

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Hong Kong’s retail sales fell by a record 44% in February from a year earlier, as travel restrictions kept tourists away and residents avoided shopping centres to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Reuters reported. The spending drought has hit an economy already in recession after months of often-violent anti-government protests. Retail sales in February fell 44% from a year earlier to HK$22.7 billion ($2.93 billion), compared with a revised 21.5% drop in January, government data showed on Tuesday.

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Like millions of people around the world, Zhang Chunzi borrowed money she thought she’d be able to repay before the coronavirus changed everything, Bloomberg News reported. Now laid off from her job at an apparel exporter in Hangzhou -- one of China’s most prosperous cities -- the 23-year-old is missing payments on 12,000 yuan ($1,700) of debt from her credit card and an online lending platform operated by Jack Ma’s Ant Financial. “I’m late on all the bills and there’s no way I can pay my debt in full,” Zhang said.

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OneWeb, the satellite operator backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp, said it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to pursue a sale of its business and has cut its workforce amid the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reported. OneWeb is in negotiations for debtor-in-possession financing, which if acquired and approved by the court will support its ongoing business, the company said in a statement that did not mention how many jobs were being cut.

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HOOQ Digital, a video streaming service majority owned by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, said it was filing for liquidation as it had not been able to grow sufficiently to provide sustainable returns nor cover escalating costs, Reuters reported. HOOQ was started as a joint venture in 2015 between Singtel, Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros Entertainment. But it has failed to make major gains as larger rivals such as Netflix Inc expanded in the region.

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As the coronavirus outbreak roils credit markets around the world, Asia is under particular threat. The region has led the world in economic growth for years as debt helped fuel frenetic construction of airports, bridges and apartment towers for millions of people moving into cities, Bloomberg News reported. That model is now running up against an unprecedented spike in borrowing costs, as investors who piled into the region’s riskiest debt at a record pace grow anxious.

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SoftBank Group Corp. lashed out at Moody’s Corp. after its debt was downgraded by two notches, accusing the ratings company of “bias” and “creating substantial misunderstanding” days after the investment group announced a $41 billion asset sale program intended to shore up confidence, Bloomberg News reported. SoftBank’s shares slid as much as 8.4% early in Tokyo trade. The Moody’s downgrade -- lowering SoftBank’s corporate family rating and senior unsecured rating to Ba3 from Ba1 -- pushed the company deeper into junk territory.

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The Bank of Thailand has set guidelines for minimum assistance that financial institutions must offer to debtors to ease their financial burden amid the pandemic, effective from April 1, the Bangkok Post reported. Veerathai Santiprabhob, the central bank's governor, said the coronavirus outbreak has affected individuals and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on a far-reaching scale, leading to the need for a guideline. "A policy rate cut is insufficient to help borrowers," he said.

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The committee of creditors (CoC) of beleaguered wind energy producer Suzlon Energy have started voting on the debt restructuring plan presented by promoters of the company, sources close to development told FE, The Financial Express reported. The process will conclude by March 26. “Out of 19 lenders, 16 have voted on resolution plan” the source added. The e-voting for Suzlon was supposed to be completed on March 21, but due to the existing scenario over Covid-19, it has been extended till March 26, a source further added.

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