The Hang Seng Mainland Properties Index experienced a significant drop of 6.4% on Monday, reaching an eight-month low. This decline has reignited concerns among investors regarding the troubled state of China’s real estate sector. Despite some positive news over the weekend – Dalian Wanda, a heavily-indebted conglomerate with substantial real estate exposure, successfully repaid a $400 million bond that was due on Sunday, after raising $320 million through the partial sale of its subsidiary – investor confidence remains shaky. The urgency with which Dalian Wanda had to secure this last-minute deal and make the repayment has added to the jitters in the market following the defaults of property giant Evergrande and others in late 2021.
Furthermore, property analysts at JPMorgan downgraded Country Garden 2007, China’s largest homebuilder, from a neutral to underweight rating. This downgrade has only deepened the apprehension among investors. JPMorgan stated that since the second quarter of 2023, sales across the sector have weakened, and “liquidity concerns…have been reignited.” They also highlighted a significant decline in Country Garden’s bond prices, particularly among onshore bonds, which has not been limited to just one company. Privately owned enterprises such as Longfor and Seazen have also experienced weakening bond prices, but Country Garden has struggled more significantly.
China’s real estate groups are facing severe challenges due to excessive debt incurred during the peak of a property bubble. The bursting of this bubble has been compounded by China’s slow economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Investors are anxiously watching the sector, unsure of what lies ahead and concerned about potential ramifications for the broader economy.
Analysis: Hong Kong Hang Seng Index drops on weak economic reopening
The Hang Seng Index (HSI) in Hong Kong experienced a significant decline of 2.3% at the beginning of the trading week. Investors swiftly sold off their holdings in real estate, consumer cyclicals, and basic materials companies, leading to this downward trend. Danni Hewson, head of financial analysis at AJ Bell, notes that China’s post-Covid economic reopening is falling short of expectations, causing investors to grow impatient with the Chinese government’s pace in announcing new stimulus measures.
Analysts are skeptical about attempts to revive the sector, such as the recent announcement to improve living conditions in shanty areas of major cities. They caution that these measures may not generate the desired level of stimulus. Strategists at Saxo Bank highlight that the scale of this initiative appears to be much smaller compared to the previous nationwide shantytown redevelopment. The previous redevelopment was financed through money printing by the People’s Bank of China via policy banks, such as the China Development Bank. In contrast, the recent directive calls for financing from multiple sources, including local governments and the private sector.
Nonetheless, Bloomberg reported that the Communist Party’s Politburo, China’s top decision-making body, announced plans to ease property policies and expand domestic demand to stimulate growth. This news brings a glimmer of hope for a potential revival in the market.