Asia

A looming economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic is a chance for India to enact sweeping reforms to fix ailing sectors and attract more foreign investment to the country, Bloomberg News reported. That’s a call being made by a former central banker and an ex-government official, as well as financial market participants, who say India needs to liberalize and deepen its financial markets, and take policy steps to fix the banking and farm sectors.

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The coronavirus crisis is creating a new threat for Indonesia’s debt-laden state-owned businesses, Bloomberg News reported. Many had binged on debt for years, faced accusations of mismanagement and even corruption, and were running into repayment problems before the virus struck. Now a slump in revenues and a credit crunch triggered by the dollar’s surge mean those risks will get a whole lot worse. “Covid-19 is exacerbating some of the challenges of the state-owned sector,” said Xavier Jean, an analyst at S&P Global Ratings in Singapore.

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Bankruptcies among Japanese companies rose for a seventh straight month in March as the coronavirus outbreak slammed the brakes on business activity across the country, Reuters reported. Tokyo Shoko Research, which tracks Japanese bankruptcies, said there were 740 in March, up 11.8 % from a year earlier. Among them, 12 firms went bankrupt due to the coronavirus pandemic as declines in inbound tourism hit sectors such as accommodation and restaurants, the research firm said.

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The world’s largest lockdown is, as expected, taking a toll on the Indian economy. Fitch Ratings Inc. expects that India will grow only 2% in the current financial year, Bloomberg News reported in a commentary. That would be the lowest rate in decades, a level not seen since this country was closed-off socialist backwater. But everyone knows that fighting a pandemic is costly. What’s even more worrying is how the costs of a slowdown—the sudden pressure on incomes and demand, in particular—will widen pre-existing cracks in the Indian growth story.

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Amid all China’s efforts to contain the economic damage of the coronavirus outbreak, a crucial development slipped by almost unnoticed -- the creation of the first national bad-debt asset manager in 20 years, Bloomberg News reported. Galaxy Asset Management Co. won approval in mid-March to convert into ​a financial asset management firm, gaining a much-coveted license to buy bad loans directly from banks nationwide, and the ability to borrow at relatively low rates.

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India’s banks and shadow lenders face a surge in bad debts from the nationwide economic lockdown aimed at combating the coronavirus outbreak, risking a wave of corporate defaults, the Financial Times reported. Rating agencies and analysts are concerned the strict, 21-day lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — which has shut down all but the most essential economic activity — has threatened the health of the banking sector, particularly the 10,000 or so less-regulated shadow lenders.

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Moody’s Investors Service slashed the outlook for the Indian banking system to negative from stable citing disruptions to economic activity from the coronavirus pandemic that will worsen the ongoing slowdown and impair lenders’ asset quality, Bloomberg News reported. A deterioration in global economic conditions and a 21-day lockdown imposed by India will weigh on domestic demand and private investment, the ratings agency said in a statement Thursday.

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Banks are under increased pressure to raise loan margins in the Greater China region as the coronavirus pandemic weakens lending and a global dollar liquidity squeeze pushes up funding costs, Bloomberg News reported. That’s a key takeaway from a Bloomberg survey of 15 major syndicated loan arrangers operating in the region, including international and Chinese banks. The survey was conducted between March 30 and April 1.

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India’s checkered history with foreign investors is making one of the biggest emerging markets look particularly vulnerable at a time when its need for overseas funding has never been clearer, Bloomberg News reported. Decades of semi-socialist, self-reliance based policies following independence left a legacy of ambivalence, or even skepticism, towards overseas capital. As recently as last year, plans for an inaugural offshore sovereign bond provoked a wave of controversy. That could all change now that India faces both a sharp economic slowdown and a rapid expansion in borrowing needs.

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Swissport International AG, the airport ground services firm owned by beleaguered Chinese conglomerate HNA Group Co., hired advisers to review its debt as passenger air traffic grinds to a halt because of coronavirus restrictions, Bloomberg News reported. The company appointed Houlihan Lokey Inc. as financial adviser as it considers a restructuring of its 1.6 billion euros ($1.7 billion) of debt, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the appointment is private.

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