Asia

Shares of rating companies that missed signs of a default that triggered India’s mini-Lehman moment are soaring after the nation’s markets regulator imposed only a small penalty, Bloomberg News reported. Care Ratings Ltd. posted record gains and Icra Ltd. saw its biggest four-day advance in more than a year after the Securities and Exchange Board of India on Dec. 26 fined them 2.5 million rupees ($35,000) each on charges they overlooked facts while assessing Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. The probes didn’t find any malafide intent.

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Financial creditors to Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Ltd. have submitted claims worth Rs 86,892 crore against the mortgage lender taken to insolvency courts by the central bank, Bloomberg Quint reported. R Subramaniah Kumar, the administrator appointed by the Reserve Bank of India, has so far admitted claims worth nearly Rs 80,980 crore before the insolvency proceedings begin, according to information available on the DHFL website. Mutual funds and other bondholders have claimed Rs 45,550 crore. The administrator admitted most of these claims.

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Embattled water treatment firm Hyflux's TuasOne waste-to-energy facility is expected to be operational in January 2021, said the National Environment Agency (NEA), The Straits Times reported. The agency said it has been monitoring discussions among the stakeholders of the TuasOne project and "is supportive of the stakeholders' actions taken to complete the project expeditiously". Hyflux said in a bourse filing yesterday that the new agreement to ensure continued funding for the TuasOne waste-to-energy project will have an "overall material adverse impact" on Hyflux's financial performance.

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Thailand is set to end 2019 at the weakest pace of growth in five years and little to cheer about next year, as South-east Asia’s second-largest economy faces headwinds from global trade tensions, a surging baht and rising political risks, Malay Mail reported. The export-reliant country has been sharply hit by the Sino-US trade conflict. Exports may fall 3.3 per cent in 2019 before rising just 0.5 per cent in 2020, according to the Bank of Thailand (BOT).

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For many Indian tycoons, 2019 turned woeful as lenders -- empowered by the nation’s recent bankruptcy law and desperate to clean up soured debt from their books -- started seizing assets of delinquent firms or dragged them into insolvency, Bloomberg Quint reported. Indian banks wrote off a record $39 billion of loans in the 18 months through September in a bid to repair their balance sheets as they battled the world’s worst bad debt pile.

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Indian carriers are likely to end this fiscal year through March with huge losses, hampered by their ability to raise fares even during the traditionally strong October-December quarter because of cut-throat competition, said three airline officials, requesting anonymity, Livemint reported. The collapse of Jet Airways (India) Ltd in April because of a severe cash crunch and a large debt pile has failed to lift industry fares as other airlines jumped to add capacity.

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The financial gearing of Asia Pacific’s largest companies has risen for a second year following a period of deleveraging, but market participants don’t see cause for alarm, Bloomberg News reported. The median total debt-to-total equity for non-financial companies in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index reached about 44% in the first nine months of 2019. That is slightly higher than the 41% seen in 2007, before the global financial crisis. Still, for many analysts, a low interest-rate environment, healthy cash balances and a favorable global economic outlook provide reassurance.

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As bond defaults become an accepted norm in China, Beijing is shifting its focus to what happens next. China’s regulators are pushing to improve the debt restructuring process, currently notoriously opaque and protracted, Bloomberg News reported. Senior officials from bodies including the central bank and securities regulator this week urged that defaults be handled more efficiently and transparently, saying action is needed to restore investor confidence.

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China’s central bank moved another step toward interest-rate liberalization by asking banks to price outstanding loans with new benchmark rates that are seen as more responsive to market movements, The Wall Street Journal reported. The People’s Bank of China said Saturday that commercial banks in the country should start replacing old benchmark lending rates with the Loan Prime Rate in pricing the loans issued before Jan. 1, 2020. The move will effectively scrap the old benchmark lending rates.

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Defaults across Asia may be headed even higher next year, with trouble seen especially in China and India, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported on a Bloomberg News story. Many investors expect fewer bailouts by the Chinese government after it recently let commodities trader Tewoo Group default in the biggest failure on a dollar bond by a state-owned firm in two decades. Companies in the region have been on a buying spree fueled by debt. Those factors could make things even worse in 2020 after China onshore defaults rose to a record in 2019.

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