US firms could win job of cleaning up China’s bad debt


  • Business
  • Monday, 20 Jan 2020

HONG KONG: One surprising part of the trade deal struck between US President Donald Trump and Beijing is that US investors won a direct shot at the potentially lucrative job of helping China clean up its heap of bad debt.

China is embracing foreign capital as it grapples with a tide of soured debt. Some estimate it to have topped US$1 trillion as the trade war weighed on economic growth and a long crackdown on shadow banking choked off liquidity.

The Communist Party-ruled nation is trying to instill more discipline in the market as corporate defaults have hit records for two straight years and its vast regional banking network struggles to cope. Growing participation by foreign investors could relieve pressure on the mainly state-owned firms that so far have been the front-line in dealing with the bad debt problem. It could also result in a more market-driven pricing of soured borrowings. US firms including Oaktree Capital Group and Bain Capital Credit have already been pushing into one of the world’s biggest distressed debt market.

The trade deal will allow financial services companies from the US to apply for licenses to buy non-performing loans, or NPLs, directly from banks, cutting out the middle man they have to go through now. —Bloomberg

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