Photographer: Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg

Asia Dollar Bond Boom Intensifies With Sky High Buyer Demand

Updated on
  • Deals priced in January more than five times oversubscribed
  • 2018 may top record $322 billion debt sold last year

The boom in Asia’s dollar bond market is ratcheting up a notch, with investors placing orders for five times as much debt as has been sold so far this month.

Chances of a steeper path higher for global interest rates that’s lifted government bond yields this year is doing little to damp the appeal for debt from Asian companies outside Japan. The ferocious appetite in 2017, in part due to the hunger from investors chasing higher yields, is extending into January with Chinese property companies finding a flurry of buyers wanting to get their hands on newly issued debt.

Strong Start

Highest coverage ratio for Asia ex-Japan dollar bonds sold so far in January

Source: Data compiled by Bloomberg using available statistics

NOTE: January figure only includes data between Jan. 1-Jan. 16

“The market had a more cautious beginning last year on the view of a stronger dollar, higher Treasury yields and concern for emerging markets about trade outcomes following Trump’s election,” said Ashley Perrott, Singapore-based head of pan-Asian fixed income at UBS Asset Management. “Obviously, there aren’t the same issues to start this year.”

UBS Asset Management expects demand for dollar bonds in the region to remain strong through to the Chinese New Year, celebrations for which start next month. This is being driven be an improving global economic environment and the strong performance of riskier assets during the first few weeks of this year, he said.

After a record $322 billion of dollar bond issuance from the region in 2017, Asian firms are off to the strongest ever start to a year. Year-to-date sales have reached $19.3 billion, despite the absence of sovereign issuers, which are active in the beginning of the year.

Borrowers are expected to issue $300 billion to $350 billion in 2018, according to a Bloomberg survey of 35 bankers and analysts in December.

Busy January

"Some investors were relatively quiet or closed their book in December. Given the market has been performing well since the beginning of the new year, they are playing catch-up now or don’t want to miss the boat," said Gordon Ip, chief investment officer, fixed income, at Value Partners Group Ltd. "Overall there is new money in the market that needs to be put to work."

Dollar bonds sold by Asian companies outside of Japan in January received orders of 5.2 times the issue size on average, compared with a 3.1 times coverage ratio for deals sold in January 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Sunny Optical Technology Group Co. attracted over 15 times of orders from 392 investors for its $600 million 5-year bond, while Longfor Properties Co.’s $300 million 5.25-year tranche and $500 million 10-year tranche were eight times and 7.2 times covered, respectively.

"We’ve seen robust demand from investors for new issues since the beginning of 2018, as new inflows including cash generated from redemptions keep the appetite high," said Chao Li, head of the Asia bond syndicate at Standard Chartered Plc in Hong Kong. Buyers from Europe and the Middle East favoring dollar debt in Asia aren’t being put off by a strong pipeline of deals expected for the remainder of this year, he said.

Investors gobbled up Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s $5 billion bond sale last week, the company’s biggest U.S. dollar offering, setting final pricing for the five-, 10- and 20-year fixed-rate tranches around 30 basis points inside the initial price guidance.

Some investors may be holding back for better deals coming later in the year, according to Lorna Greene, director of debt syndicate & origination Asia at National Australia Bank. New bonds sold this year on average have gained 0.18 cents on the dollar from their issue prices, compared with an average gain of 0.36 cents in January 2017 for those sold in that month.

“Although investors will see a further increase in investable funds in 2018, the stable market backdrop and strong pipeline of APAC US$ issuance means there is less urgency for them to deploy their cash than in January 2017,” she said.

— With assistance by Allen Yan

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