Corporate bond rush heads for slowdown

April 08, 2021 | 14:00
With Vietnamese regulators’ efforts to minimise the risks of corporate bonds’ mass issuance, the landscape is predicted to be cooled down compared to a frenzy of debt instruments in the previous period.
1538 p24 corporate bond rush heads for slowdown
Corporate bond rush heads for slowdown

According to fresh data from the Hanoi Stock Exchange, as of January 22, there were seven successful corporate bond private placements with a total value of $279 million and two public offerings of $70 million. The real estate sector accounted for $233.7 million, equivalent to 66.9 per cent of the total issued value.

Previously, over $17.82 billion of corporate bonds were issued last year, which increased by 38.5 per cent from end-2019 and 83.5 per cent from end-2018.

Albeit a decline in the last quarter of 2020’s issuance volume the real estate sector witnessed the largest corporate bond issuance volume in 2020 of over $6.09 billion, accounting for over 35 per cent of total issuance value at an average coupon rate of 10.52 per cent. The banking sector also made up for nearly 30 per cent, with an average coupon rate of 6.69 per cent, lower than 7.06 per cent in 2019. Some significant bond issuers included BIDV, VietinBank, HDBank, and TPBank.

The rush of corporate bond issuance has sought attention from yield-hunt investors in the face of ultra-low interest rates.

“Rising medium- and long-term capital demands to satisfy stricter regulations on credit safety limits and capital adequacy ratio in 2021 were putting much pressure on commercial banks to raise funds from bond issuance in late 2020,” explained Nguyen Tu Anh, director of the General Economic Department under the Central Party’s Economic Commission. “On the other hand, foreign investors have been closely engaged in the domestic debt market. In 2020, foreign investors were actively net buyers, expect only three months of slight net-selling, with a total net buying value of $179.7 million.”

However, the lack of transparency and independent credit rating agency makes the task of re-evaluating the debts much harder. According to Nguyen Hoang Duong, deputy director of the Banking and Finance Department under the Ministry of Finance (MoF), Decree No.153/2020/ND-CP dated December 31 on private offering and trading of corporate bonds in the domestic and international markets, stipulates that investors are responsible for their own investment decisions and risks.

As per Decree 153, corporate bonds for private offering shall be traded among professional securities investors only, except for cases of implementing judgment or decision of courts that have taken legal effect.

“The state cannot guarantee that issuers would fully pay interests and principal loans on time. Therefore, investors should be extra cautious of the legal framework, as well as dig deep into the full information of bonds they want to purchase. They would have to take responsibility for their own investment decisions and be willing to take risks when buying private bonds,” Duong said.

The MoF also cautioned investors to keep an eye on corporate bonds issued by companies that are members, subsidiaries, or affiliated firms of large corporations.

“Investors must pay close attention on the detailed information about stakeholders and organisational structure of the issuers. It is imperative to have a clear understanding of the companies’ financial health, their business activities, future outlook, and debt obligations. Specifically, do not just follow their parent companies’ reputation,” the MoF noted.

Bao Viet Securities Company added, “We believe that the demand for corporate bond issuance of domestic firms will also decrease, and insolvency risk may occur in a number of businesses in 2021. However, we believe that this risk is unlikely to spread and negatively affect the financial system.”

Nguyen Tu Anh of the General Economic Department cautioned, “Despite its rapid development in recent years, there are still several shortcomings hindering the industry. The scale of the Vietnamese corporate bond market still pales in comparison with regional peers. Furthermore, the secondary market has not been developed yet, and liquidity of corporate bonds after issuance is relatively low. An independent rating agency is still the major absent element.”

On a regional level, an improving global economic outlook and progress on pandemic vaccinations have pushed up bond yields in the emerging East Asia, including Vietnam. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), steady expansion in both the government and corporate bond segments supported the growth.

Specifically, government bonds grew 7.1 per cent from the previous quarter to $58.8 billion at the end of December, accounting for 82.8 per cent of the country’s total bond stock. Meanwhile, corporate bonds also sustained their growth momentum, increasing 13.6 per cent from the previous quarter and 169.5 per cent from a year earlier to $12.2 billion.

“Bond markets in emerging East Asia continued to grow, mobilising funding for the region’s sustainable recovery from the pandemic,” said ADB chief economist Yasuyuki Sawada. “Successful vaccination campaigns, accommodative monetary policy stances, and easing of restrictions are spurring on economic activity and shifting the recovery into higher gear.”

By Lam Tien

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