FT: China targets US$148b in financing for cash-strapped developers

FT: China targets US$148b in financing for cash-strapped developers

A worker stands on the scaffolding at a construction site against a backdrop of residential buildings in Huaian, Jiangsu province October 18, 2018. — Reuters pic

Thursday, 28 Jul 2022 6:01 PM MYT

HONG KONG, July 28 — China will help property developers by issuing 1 trillion yuan (RM659 billion) in loans for stalled developments, the Financial Times said today, as it tries to revive the debt-stricken sector and relieve pressure on the economy.

Once a key pillar of growth, China’s property sector has been lurching from one crisis to another for the past year. A growing mortgage revolt by homebuyers this month has put more pressure on authorities to act quickly to quell risks of social unrest.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) will initially issue about 200 billion yuan of low-interest loans, charging about 1.75 per cent a year, to state commercial banks, the FT said, citing people involved in the discussions.

The plan, which was recently approved by China’s State Council, will permit banks to use the PBOC loans along with their own funds to refinance stalled real estate projects, the report added.

Reuters has sought comment from PBOC.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Mainland Properties Index reversed morning losses after the report and ended flat on Thursday, versus a 0.4 per cent drop in the broader market.

The world’s second-biggest economy, of which the property sector accounts for a quarter, only narrowly missed a contraction in the second quarter.

Crisis of confidence

A source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters the “initial” 200 billion yuan will be the total relending facility from PBOC to state banks, and the banks will leverage the money to get more financing from the market.

The official added the funds will not all be used as loans to developers, but also for other methods to help real estate firms battling a crippling debt crisis.

Reuters reported this week, citing a state bank official, that China planned to launch a real estate fund to help the sector, aiming for a warchest of up to 300 billion yuan.

Part of the fund will be used to bankroll the purchases of unfinished home projects and complete their construction, and then rent them as part of the government’s drive to boost rental housing, the bank official said.

The central bank will support an initial 80 billion yuan of the fund, with state-owned China Construction Bank contributing 50 billion yuan of it with a relending facility from the PBOC, Reuters reported.

However, property developers and analysts said even one trillion yuan in new financing will not be sufficient to resolve all the debt woes facing the real estate sector.

Beijing is scrambling to reassure homebuyers who are threatening to stop paying mortgages on unfinished housing projects, which is spurring a shakeout among cash-starved developers who have long relied on pre-sales of apartments.

Private developers account for around 70 per cent of the market, and at least half of them have run into liquidity issues, according to analysts.

While new funding schemes led by the government will help to boost market sentiment, analysts said more measures will be needed to stabilise the sector.

Investors are closely watching for any property support action from the July Politburo meeting this week, when China’s top decision-making body gathers to discuss economic policies for the rest of the year.

Meanwhile, both home buyers and investors are staying away after waves of developer defaults.

China’s property investment fell 5.4 per cent from a year earlier in the first half of the year, while property sales by floor area slumped 22.2 per cent and new construction starts measured by floor area fell 34.4 per cent, official data showed earlier this month.

“We expect stronger, but targeted, policy easing will be rolled out in the second half to support real estate construction and infrastructure spending,” Oxford Economics said in a note to clients this week.

“While this will provide a short-term boost to the economy, it is not ideal for China’s longer-term growth as the government and the financial sector are being forced to help sustain an unproductive (and failing) real estate industry.” — Reuters