RAM Ratings Upgrades Outlook For Country Garden Debt

RAM Ratings Upgrades Outlook For Country Garden Debt

PETALING JAYA, 12 July: RAM Ratings has revised to stable from negative the outlook on the AA3(s) rating of Country Garden Real Estate Sdn Bhd’s RM1.5 billion irredeemable medium-term note programme.

The move reflects the improvement in the credit metrics of its ultimate parent – China-based Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd – and its expectation that these metrics will be sustained on the back of strong property sales and solid cashflow generation.

The rating of the note programme reflects unconditional and irrevocable corporate guarantees extended by Country Garden, Bright Start Group Ltd and Top Favour Holdings Ltd on a joint and several basis. Therefore, the rating mirrors that of Country Garden (as the strongest obligor) and its credit fundamentals.

“While we believe the overall Chinese property market will continue to soften in the near term, the group’s sales performance is envisaged to remain sturdy, supporting its robust debt coverage and leverage profile,” RAM Ratings said in a statement yesterday.

In FY Dec 2016, Country Garden’s sales more than doubled from the previous corresponding period to RMB309 billion (RM195.1 billion) as the group scaled up property launches. From being the third-largest property developer by total sales in 2016, Country Garden moved to first place in 2017, with its sales increasing three-fold to RMB204 billion in the first four months of the year. As at end-December 2016, the group expanded its presence to 185 cities in China from 147 cities a year earlier, enlarging its geographical footprint while minimising concentration risk.

Lifted by lofty advance property sales receipts, Country Garden’s operating cashflow debt cover rebounded strongly in fiscal 2016 to a 5-year high of 1.28 times, after underperforming in fiscal 2015 at 0.24 times. Likewise, the group’s adjusted net gearing – which is adjusted for pre-sales profit yet to be recognised and excludes restricted cash – improved to 0.49 times as at end-December 2016 (end-December 2015: 0.92 times).

RAM Ratings, however, did caution that Country Garden’s total debt inflated to RMB136 billion, as a result of persistently aggressive land acquisitions in the past two years, making it less flexible to withstand changes in market conditions.

“While its leverage is expected to stay manageable under this scenario, we remain cautious in view of the group’s tendency to deviate from its stated plans due to changing market conditions, as exhibited in the past few years,” it concluded.

— THE SUN

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