Wall Street analysts have been churning out commentary this week proclaiming that while Evergrande’s troubles pose a serious threat to the Chinese economy, it’s potential collapse doesn’t represent a “Lehman Moment”. As Thursday’s bond-interest deadline looms, analysts at Mizuho write that “while street wisdom is that Evergrande is not a ‘Lehman risk’, it is by no stretch of the imagination any meaningful comfort…It could end up being China’s proverbial house of cards … with cross-sector headwinds already felt in materials/commodities.”
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We touched on this earlier, with analysts at SocGen raising the odds of a “hard landing” – an “extended, severe property-led slowdown” – to 30%.
The FT, meanwhile, shared Barclays’ skeptical take on the Lehman scenario comparisons, arguing that Evergrande has little in common with the Lehman scenario aside from the timing (Lehman famously filed for bankruptcy in September 2008, 13 years ago.
“China’s situation is very different. Not only are the property sectors’ linkages to the financial system not on the same scale as a large investment bank, but the debt capital markets are not the only, or even the primary, means of funding. The country is, to a large extent, a command-and-control economy. In an extreme scenario, even if capital markets are shut to all Chinese property firms (which is not occurring and is only a tail risk at this point), regulators could direct banks to lend to such firms, keeping them afloat and providing time for an extended ‘work-out’ if needed. The only way to get a widespread lenders’ strike in a strategically important part of the economy would be if there were a policy mistake, where the authorities allow the chips to fall where they may (perhaps to impose market discipline), regardless of the systemic implications. And we think that’s very unlikely; the lesson from Lehman was that moral hazard needs to take a back seat to systemic risk.”
And while that might sound reasonable enough, one of the world’s richest bankers, Uday Kotak, the CEO and founder of Indian lender Kotak Mahindra Bank, begs to differ. He said in a tweet on Tuesday that Evergrande “seems like China’s Lehman moment.”