OpEd: Evergrande Isn’t China’s ‘Lehman Moment’; It Could Be Worse than That

The bankruptcy of Chinese real estate company Evergrande is much more than a “Chinese Lehman,” according to an OpEd in Eurasia Review. Lehman Brothers was much more diversified than Evergrande and better capitalized. In fact, the total assets of Evergrande that are on the brink of bankruptcy outnumber the entire subprime bubble of the U.S. The problem with Evergrande is that it is not an anecdote, but a symptom of a model based on leveraged growth and seeking to inflate GDP at any cost with ghost cities, unused infrastructure and wild construction, according to the OpEd. The indebtedness chain model of Evergrande is not uncommon in China. Many Chinese companies follow the “running to stand still” strategy of piling on ever-increasing debt to compensate for poor cash-flow generation and weak margins. Many promoters get into massive debt to build a promotion that either is not sold or is left with many unsold units, then refinance that debt by adding more credit for new projects using unsaleable or already leveraged assets as collateral. The total liabilities of Evergrande account for more than double its official debt figure (more than 2 trillion yuan). Evergrande’s financial hole is equivalent to almost a third of Russia’s GDP. Its annual revenues do not reach $70 billion, and it is more than debatable whether those revenues are real, since a relevant part comes from payment commitments whose collection is doubtful. Even if they were real, these revenues are not enough to address the bond maturities, which exceed $250 billion in the short term. Read more.

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