China

Tsinghua Unigroup, a Chinese conglomerate that has long sought to become a semiconductor powerhouse, is now caught between a rock and a hard place as debt woes mount while key chip units are failing to thrive, Reuters reported. Best known for an unsuccessful $23 billion bid for U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology Inc in 2015, Unigroup in November shocked investors with a default on a 1.3 billion yuan ($200 million) bond. Including that bond, Unigroup has now either defaulted or had cross-defaults triggered on seven onshore and offshore bonds worth about $3.6 billion, according to Refinitiv data.
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New York-listed Best Inc, a Chinese logistics firm backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, is considering a sale as part of a strategic review, Reuters reported. With the endorsement of Alibaba, its biggest shareholder, Best has tapped financial advisers to explore options as its shares have been underperforming and are worth a fifth of its IPO price in 2018, two of the people involved in the discussions said.

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China postponed Kenyan debt repayments due over the next six months, a week after the Paris Club of creditors offered the East African nation similar relief, Bloomberg News reported. Kenya had been scheduled to pay 27 billion shillings ($245 million) to China from January through June, Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani said Wednesday on Spice FM radio in the capital, Nairobi. The delayed payments were agreed after talks with the Chinese government, he said.

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One thing is missing from China’s otherwise remarkable economic recovery: a strong rebound in consumer spending, the Wall Street Journal reported. Even though China was the only major economy to expand during the Covid-19 pandemic last year, its growth remains highly unbalanced, relying heavily on exports of manufactured goods to the U.S. and elsewhere. Domestic consumption has lagged, with retail sales shrinking 3.9% in 2020 from the previous year and demand for imported goods falling slightly. There are many reasons for the weakness.

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Beijing’s bar against Australian coal imports is upending global flows of the energy commodity, leaving dozens of loaded ships stranded off the Chinese coast and reshaping the direction of the seaborne trade, the Wall Street Journal reported. The flotilla of coal carriers sitting outside Chinese ports has grown to some 65 vessels, according to ship brokers in Singapore and London. Ship operators and coal suppliers unable to find new buyers for their cargo are waiting out a trade dispute that has lasted several months.

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China is in talks with Kenya on a debt-service suspension deal, its embassy in Nairobi said, days after the Paris Club agreed to delay $300 million in payments by the East African nation, Bloomberg News reported. China signed payment suspension agreements with 12 African countries and gave waivers on mature interest-free loans for 15 African nations under the G-20 framework, the embassy said in an emailed statement, without providing details.

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China’s economy expanded by 2.3% in 2020, roaring back from a historic contraction in the early months of the year to become the only major world economy to grow in what was a pandemic-ravaged year, the Wall Street Journal reported. China’s ability to expand, even as the world struggled to control a deadly virus that has killed more than two million people, underscores the country’s success in largely taming the coronavirus within its borders and further cements its place as the dominant economy in Asia. China’s growth makes it an outlier among large economies.

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While defaults were once considered a rare occurrence in China’s bond market — with many borrowers having relied on financial support or a bailout in times of trouble — the past three years combined saw a record number of delinquencies, according to a Bloomberg News analysis. Defaults eased off for much of 2020 as policymakers sought to limit economic damage by the coronavirus outbreak, before picking up again at the end of the year. The risks continue in 2021, according to analysts. After years of debt-fueled spending, Chinese companies are under increasing pressure.

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China's first regulation on individual bankruptcy, adopted in August in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, will play a big role in stimulating the country's market vitality, maintaining its social stability and helping it improve its credit system, a high-placed bankruptcy court official in the city said, China Daily reported. The regulation takes effect on March 1.

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China’s economy has come roaring back from the depths of the coronavirus pandemic, and its currency has joined the ride, the New York Times reported. The currency, known variously as the yuan or the renminbi, has surged in strength in recent months against the American dollar and other major currencies. Through Monday, the U.S. dollar was worth 6.47 renminbi, compared with 7.16 renminbi in late May and close to its strongest level in two and half years.

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