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Two major Chinese borrowers miss bond payments: sources

Shanghai

TWO large Chinese borrowers - one that's already defaulted, and one that's under pressure after missing payment deadlines in the past two weeks - underscore the risks piling up in a credit market that's witnessing the most bond failures on record.

China Minsheng Investment Group Corp, a private investment group with interests in renewable energy and real estate, has not returned capital to some holders of a yuan bond that it pledged to repay on Feb 1, according to people familiar with the matter. And Wintime Energy Co, which defaulted last year, did not honour part of a debt repayment plan, separate people said.

The developments are significant because both companies were big borrowers, and their problems accessing financing suggest that government efforts to smooth over cracks in the US$11 trillion bond market aren't benefiting all firms.

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If China Minsheng ends up defaulting, it may rank alongside Wintime Energy as one of China's biggest failures, with 232 billion yuan (S$46.4 billion) of debt as at June 30, according to a ratings agency report.

"Chinese corporations' expansion in the past few years has often been fuelled by debt issuance, usually short-term borrowings, but their investment cycles are typically longer term," said Shen Chen, a partner at Shanghai Maoliang Investment Management LLP. "The recent failures show that companies are still struggling to roll over their debt despite the recent easing measures."

Shanghai-based China Minsheng Investment had planned to repay a 3 billion yuan bond on Feb 1, three days after the maturity, Bloomberg News reported earlier.

Wintime Energy, a coal miner based in Shanxi province, told investors it is still seeking financing for payment of 20 per cent of the principal on the defaulted bond, which was due on Feb 6, said the people, who are not authorised to speak publicly and asked not to be identified.

Wintime, with a total debt of 63.2 billion yuan as at Sept 30, was the second largest bond defaulter in China last year after CEFC Shanghai International Group Ltd. A liquidity crunch in the country led to a record 119.6 billion yuan of local note delinquencies in 2018. BLOOMBERG