Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Laura Santini 中国一家木材公司所发行的债券未能按时还本付息，海外投资者前几年纷纷在中国达成的复杂债券交易最近不断出现问题，这是最新一桩。 曼图林业财务有限公司(Mandra Forestry Finance Ltd.)说，它未能在5月15日按期偿还1.95亿美元的优先债券，这笔债券是4年前发行的，于2013年5月到期。这家公司说，它正在评估其他替代方案，其中包括将公司出售。 Associated Press 另一家拖欠债务的中国公司是半导体制造商ASAT Holdings Ltd.，该公司正在重组，它表示至少一部分债券持有人已同意公司暂缓偿还债务。今年早些时候，亚洲铝业控股有限公司(Asia Aluminum Holdings Ltd.)被迫破产清算，此前这家中国的铝生产商要求大幅折价回购其外汇债务的提议被拒绝。 投资者和债市观察人士说，那些发行了外币债券的中国企业中还有可能出现拖欠债务的公司，这些公司许多都是私营合资企业，与地方政府官员有牵连。外国债权人担心，中国的企业重组进程会将股东、工人和中资债权人的利益置于他们的利益之前。 这些出现问题的债券交易告诉人们，那些急于从中国经济增长中获利的西方投资者和银行家可能遇到何种麻烦。 中国大陆的许多债券发行交易都有着旨在绕开政府监管的复杂结构。举例来说，中国公司不能将境内资产用作获得海外贷款的抵押品，所以发债公司会在海外创办一些实体，用这些实体的股份来为在海外发行的债券作担保。 为了将发债融资的成本保持在低水平，许多中国公司在海外发行债券的交易都有所谓股权参与(equity kicker)条款，即发债公司如果日后上市，债权人还将获得额外回报。由于当前这场全球性金融危机，中国的首次公开募股(IPO)活动陷入停顿，这一条款现在已经没有什么吸引力了。 对于那些还债有困难的中国大陆企业来说，其海外债权人几乎施加不了什么影响。 在标准普尔公司(Standard & Poor's)研究的95家中国企业中，目前有3家出现了债务拖欠问题，但标普分析师Christopher Lee预计，数量还会增加。 以曼图林业财务有限公司为例，该公司发行了收益率为12%的优先债券，债券附赠的认股权证保证投资者可以每股0.10美元的价格最多购买25,000股该公司股票。这家公司一直未能上市，除非它能在这批债券2013年到期前上市，否则这些认股权证将没有丝毫价值。 在发行这批债券时，曼图林业财务有限公司还没有收益，它不过是一家刚刚创办的木材生产商。该公司在其发债说明书中说，它与中国的一些地方林业局有联系，这种联系使得它能逐年增加木材产量。而据熟悉这家公司情况的人士说，该公司一直未能获得增加木材产量所需的采伐许可证。 曼图林业财务有限公司的一位发言人说，虽然公司出现了短期流动资金问题，但相信公司资产的基本面价值仍是好的。 这家公司正在考虑的替代选择包括将公司出售给另一家木材生产商。这家公司在海外发行的债券大部分掌握在一小批对冲基金和投资银行手中。 纽约资产管理公司BlackRock Inc.经营的BlackRock全球配置基金也是该公司债券的持有人。BlackRock的发言人拒绝发表评论。 由于债券持有人是否能从这些中国企业收回贷款存在着不确定性，一些投资者开始重新评估这些企业与承销其债券的华尔街公司之间的关系。 以曼图林业财务有限公司为例，它与摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)的密切关系使一些债券投资者感到不安。摩根士丹利帮助该公司发行了这笔债券，并持有该公司10%的股份。由于中国公司的股票持有人有时在待遇上要优于其债券持有人，因此这些投资者担心自己与摩根士丹利的利益已不再一致。 曼图林业董事长张颂义曾是摩根士丹利的投资银行家，虽然他在这笔债券发行前几年就离开了摩根士丹利，但据曼图林业的发债说明书和知情人士说，在发售这笔债券时，张颂义仍是摩根士丹利的留用“咨询经理”。 曼图林业的一位发言人说，张颂义未从摩根士丹利获得任何与曼图林业债券发售有关的费用，并说他与摩根士丹利的关系不存在利益冲突。这位发言人在回复打给张颂义的电话时拒绝发表评论。 RiskMetrics Group在亚洲的风险管理业务负责人HeongWee Chong说，许多在中国经济蓬勃发展时达成的债券发行交易都涉及与银行和企业的潜在利益冲突。他说，谁都不想错过这个发大财的机会，因此人们开始变得有点懒惰，纷纷选择忽视这些利益冲突。 A bond default by a Chinese timber company is the latest example of trouble emerging from complex debt deals that foreign investors rushed to strike in China during the past few years. Mandra Forestry Finance Ltd. missed a May 15 payment on $195 million in senior debt that was issued four years ago and matures in May 2013, the company said. Mandra said it is reviewing alternatives, which could include selling the firm. Another Chinese company, semiconductor manufacturer ASAT Holdings Ltd., is restructuring and said it has secured a temporary reprieve from at least some bondholders. Earlier this year, Asia Aluminum Holdings Ltd. fell into liquidation after an offer from the Chinese aluminum maker to buy back its foreign debt at a severe discount was rebuffed. Investors and debt watchers say other defaults are likely among Chinese companies that issued foreign debt, many of which are privately held ventures with ties to local government officials. Foreign creditors fear China's restructuring process will place the interests of equity holders, workers and Chinese lenders ahead of their own. Such problematic debt illustrates the potential pitfalls facing Western investors and bankers eager to profit from China's growth. Many debt issues in mainland China involve complex structures designed to circumvent regulations. Chinese companies, for example, can't pledge onshore assets as collateral for overseas lenders, so offshore vehicles are created to back the bonds with shares. In order to keep the cost of debt low, many of these offshore deals offered a so-called equity kicker that would provide extra returns if a company went public -- an option that was sidelined by the drying up of China's public stock offerings amid the global financial crisis. Offshore debt holders have little leverage over mainland companies struggling to repay their debt. So far, three Chinese companies out of 95 researched by Standard & Poor's have defaulted on debt, but the tally is expected to rise, said Christopher Lee, an S&P analyst. Mandra's sale of 12% senior bonds, for example, came with warrants allowing investors to purchase as many as 25,000 shares at $0.10 apiece. Mandra hasn't gone public, and unless it does so before the bonds come due in 2013, those warrants are worthless. At the time of the bond offering, Mandra had no earnings and was little more than a start-up timber producer. In its prospectus, Mandra noted its contacts with local Chinese forestry bureaus, which would allow it to increase its timber production over time. According to people close to the company, permission hasn't been granted. A Mandra spokesman said 'the company has a short-term liquidity issue but believes the fundamental value of its assets to be sound.' Alternatives under review included a possible sale to another timber producer. A small group of hedge funds and investment banks hold most of the firm's debt. BlackRock Global Allocation Fund, run by New York-based BlackRock Inc. is also a holder. A spokeswoman for the asset-management company declined to comment. The uncertainty about whether bondholders will be able to recover their loans has led some investors to re-examine relationships between companies and the Wall Street firms that underwrote their deals. In Mandra's case, its close relationship with Morgan Stanley, which helped issue the debt and owns 10% of the company, has made some bond investors uneasy. They worry that because holders of equity in Chinese companies sometimes make out better than holders of debt, their interests are no longer aligned with those of the bank. Mandra's chairman, Song-Yi Zhang, is a former Morgan Stanley investment banker who left his position several years before the debt deal, but was a Morgan Stanley 'advisory director' on retainer with the bank when the bonds were sold, according to the prospectus and people familiar with the arrangement. A Mandra spokesman said that Mr. Zhang didn't accept any fees from Morgan Stanley in connection with Mandra's bond sale and that his relationship with the firm doesn't represent a conflict. The spokesman, returning a call left for Mr. Zhang, declined to comment. HeongWee Chong, head of risk management in Asia for RiskMetrics Group, said during the boom times, a number of deals in China involved potential conflicts of interest with banks and the companies. 'Everyone wanted to be part of the gravy train, so people started being a little bit lazy and chose to ignore [conflicts],' said Mr. Chong.