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Why China’s Developers Have So Much Dollar Debt

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China’s property sector expanded rapidly as the country’s economy became more market-oriented, in part because the country’s emerging middle class viewed buying a home as one of the few safe investments available. Home prices skyrocketed, fueling speculation and more demand. With quick expansion comes large funding needs. In addition to bank loans, developers turned to the vast pool of money offshore, partly because authorities at times had banned selling bonds inside the country to prevent the market from overheating. Even after such restrictions were lifted in 2014, waiting times for approvals and clampdowns on other local financing channels such as shadow banking burnished the appeal of the global dollar bond market, which in turn was hungry for higher yields. Debt piled up as Chinese builders kept going back to refinance, with annual sales of such notes surging from $675 million in 2009 to $64.7 billion in 2020, according to Bloomberg-compiled data. They account for nearly half the world’s distressed dollar bonds.  

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