Vietnam’s corporate debt worrying
By Hong Phuc - The Saigon Times Daily
An unidentifi ed investor follows stock prices on his tablet at a securities firm in HCMC in this file photo. The weighted average debt-to-equity ratio in book value gleaned from the second quarter fi nancial statements of 647 non-financial companies on the nation’s two bourses is among the world’s highest - Photo: TL
HCMC – The weighted average debt-to-equity ratio in book value gleaned from the second quarter financial statements of 647 non-financial companies listed on the two bourses of Vietnam is among the world’s highest, up to 1.53.
Nguyen Xuan Thanh from the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program unveiled the astonishing figure at the 2012 Investment Conference held by Nhip Cau Dau Tu magazine in HCMC on Thursday.
“This ratio is so high compared to other economies, both developed and emerging. For example, the ratio of the U.S listed companies was 1.2 in 2011 and Chinese firms 1.06,” said Thanh.
He cited data proving that this has not happened all of a sudden, but has been the case for several years. But warnings were not promptly given and no adjustment was made.
Vietnamese businesses have increased financial leverage since 2007. Their debt ratios were already at high levels in the early 2000s.
The ratios of accounts payable to equity of 114 companies listed on the Hochiminh Stock Exchange averaged out at 1.2 in 2007.
A survey conducted by the General Statistics Office in 1999-2002 shows that the debt-to-equity ratio was 1.32 in 1999, 1.93 in 2000 and 1.96 in 2002.
But which sector incurs the most debts? Thanh cited the Q2 financial statements of listed firms showing that construction and real estate are those suffering the highest ratios of debt to equity, at above 2.0.
Non-financial companies have an average ratio of 153%, energy 144% and consumption goods 80%, the lowest.
Remarkably, the ratio of State groups and corporations reaches over 1.73, higher than the average 1.5 of listed companies in general.
More worryingly, according to Thanh, debt decline is facing multiple obstacles.
Credit institutions tend to invest in secure financial assets like bonds and valuable papers and consequently, cash flow gets stuck at banks.
Banks have also recently added more “other assets” in their balance sheets.
As for enterprises, those with smooth cashflow tend to borrow less, while the troubled firms want to take out new loans but they cannot do so due to the heavy burden of old debts.
Sharing Thanh’s view, Nguyen Nam Son, board member of Thien Viet Securities Co. and managing director of Vietnam Capital Partners, said: “The financial weakness of Vietnamese companies is alarming.”
The debt-to-equity ratio of local firms is as much as 120%, versus the regional average of 45%. This is an alarming figure, a ratio of over 60% already poses risk of bankruptcy if the market developments are unfavorable,” Son said.
He noted the most typical loss-making companies were those investing in non-core business sectors, regardless of their capability.
“Without long-term financial strategies, Vietnamese property firms have the highest financial leverage in Asia. Most of them might not survive the crisis, as banks are tightening lending. Meanwhile, international funds are always available, but only to transparent companies,” he added.
In the first seven months, the total money supply picked up 8.58% against late 2011. Bank deposits increased significantly while credits only inched up 0.57%.
“Certainly, our country is at the early stages of an economic downturn, with the first sign being the falling credit-to-GDP ratio,” Thanh underscored.