Asian property debt woes worsen

THE bonds of Indonesian property companies are slumping, adding to signs of property debt distress that’s been deepening in China, South Korea and Vietnam. 

Agung Podomoro’s 2024 dollar bond extended declines last week to 6.7 cents, which would be the worst such fall since July 2021. That brings the notes to a record low of 37 cents on the dollar, Bloomberg-compiled data show. 

Other signs of strains have also been cropping up. On Nov 9, builder PT Kawasan Industri Jababeka was downgraded further into junk territory by Fitch Ratings, which said it believed that a recent debt exchange offer was conducted to avoid a default. 

The mounting strains come as property firms in more countries grapple with slower sales and higher borrowing costs. 

Also on Nov 10, the notes backed by Lippo Karawaci due in 2026 fell by about 0.3 cent to 54 cents on the dollar. LMIRT Capital’s 2026 bond extended its losses, down to 55 cents. Levels below 70 cents on the dollar are typically considered distressed. 

Rising interest rates around the world are exposing risks that have accumulated in property markets, juiced by cheap funding during the pandemic. 

South Korea rolled out fresh measures to help its struggling real estate market on Nov 10 in the form of additional guarantees to project financing. 

China has been grappling with a property debt crisis as developer defaults worsen to a record. In Vietnam, such companies are struggling to access capital and potential home buyers face tightening credit in the wake of a government crackdown on bond sales. 

S&P Global Ratings also cut its rating on Jababeka last week, with a negative outlook on expectation it could be downgraded further to SD or selective default. 

Jababeka’s 2023 dollar bond touched its lowest since August on Nov 7 but has gained again. The debt was little changed at 48.6 cents on the dollar on Nov 10. 

Jababeka didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment on the debt swap.

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition