Cosco Shipping Loss Triples in Latest Sign of Weak China Profits

Cosco Shipping Co., a listed unit of China’s biggest shipping group, said first-half net loss tripled, the latest sign that slowing growth in the world’s second-biggest economy is eroding corporate earnings.

The shipping company’s loss in the first six months was 78 million yuan ($12.7 million), widening from 23.6 million yuan a year earlier, it said in a statement to Shanghai’s stock exchange yesterday. Gold miner Zijing Mining Group Co., sportswear maker Peak Sport Products Ltd. and winemaker Dynasty Fine Wines Group Ltd. are among others to report sliding profits or losses this month.

Chinese data that showed an unexpected drop in June exports and imports yesterday underscored a slowdown amid Premier Li Keqiang’s moves to reduce reliance on investments and overseas shipments for economic growth. UBS AG this week cut its 2013 growth forecast for companies listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen, saying earnings may deteriorate further if government policies remain unchanged.

“Corporate profitability is closely linked to economic growth,” Ma Jun, Deutsche Bank AG’s chief China economist in Hong Kong, said today by phone. When economic expansion weakens by one percentage point, corporate profit growth may slow by 10 percentage points, he said.

China Rongsheng Heavy Industries Group Holdings Ltd., the nation’s biggest shipyard outside state control, is seeking financial help from the government. Rongsheng has lost more than 30 percent of its market value since saying on July 3 that idle contract workers staged “disruptive” activities and surrounded the entrance of its main factory. On July 5 it said it will post a first-half loss.

Slowing Growth

Economic growth in China has held below 8 percent for the past four quarters, the first time that has happened in at least 20 years. China’s gross domestic product may have risen 7.5 percent in the three months ended June, according to the median of 40 economist estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. That’s down from the 7.7 percent pace in the first quarter and 7.9 percent in the last three months of 2012.

China’s statistics bureau is scheduled to release economic growth data for the second quarter on July 15.

Cosco Shipping’s statement didn’t elaborate on the reasons for the widening of its loss. Guo Jing and Wang Jian, company spokesmen, didn’t immediately return phone calls.

The company warned in April it may report a loss for the first six months, saying the global shipping market is in the “doldrums.”

Cosco Shipping has dropped 23 percent this year, compared with 8.6 percent for the Shanghai Composite Index. The stock rose 2.7 percent to 3.02 yuan in Shanghai trading today, lagging behind the index’s 3.2 percent gain.

Cash Crunch

Rongsheng said last week that a plunge in orders forced it to reduce production and “restructure” its workforce. The Wall Street Journal reported July 3 that the shipbuilder laid off about 8,000 workers. The company is in talks with two coastal cities and ministry-level government departments on securing financial assistance, spokesman William Li said July 9.

A cash crunch that sent money-market rates to a record last month has added to the challenges. Securing loans is “continuously” getting harder for shipyards and borrowing costs are increasing, said the Zhejiang Province Shipping Industry Association. “Except for large state-owned enterprises and some private companies, the rest will more or less face difficulties in borrowing,” the association said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

Dealers ‘Panic’

The nation’s auto dealerships are increasingly reluctant to ship their vehicles to neighborhood car lots without upfront payment because of the cash squeeze. There is “panic” among dealers, Luo Lei, deputy secretary-general of the China Automobile Dealers Association, said this week.

HSBC Holdings Plc said last week it expected interim results from Chinese companies to lead to analysts downgrading their earnings estimates. Chinese equities will struggle for the next few quarters as a result, HSBC analysts led by Steven Sun wrote in a July 5 report.

UBS strategists Li Chen and Chris Pu in a July 9 note named weak new real estate and infrastructure construction, poor exports, unwillingness of manufacturers to restock, weak consumer prices and higher financing costs as the main “unfavorable factors” facing non-financial companies. They cut their 2013 earnings growth estimate for A-share companies to 8.7 percent from 11.5 percent.

— With assistance by Feifei Shen

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