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Singapore's looming debt wall fuels concern after Ezra stumbles
[HONG KONG] Default fears are resurfacing in Singapore ahead of a wall of maturing corporate debt, as a US bankruptcy filing of a firm from the city flags lingering pain despite economic recovery.
Pressure to pay down obligations has been unrelenting. Companies excluding banks in Singapore must repay S$38 billion of local bonds through the end of 2020, after four years through 2016 in which about the same amount fell due, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Six firms have defaulted on S$1.2 billion worth of notes since November 2015.
For some of Singapore's small debt-laden companies, a rebound in manufacturing and exports hasn't been enough to bolster bottom lines sufficiently. In the latest sign of strains, Ezra Holdings Ltd, which provides engineering services to the offshore oil and gas sector, filed for Chapter 11 protection March 18 in the US. The Singapore government, seeking to make it easier for firms to restructure debt at home, voted earlier this month to enact several changes to its Companies Act that are expected to take effect by March 31.
"I see ongoing distress which could lead to further defaults in the local bond market, in particular in oil and gas and shipping," said Thomas Dillenseger, Hong Kong-based managing director at restructuring firm Alvarez & Marsal.