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2017-07-18 07:31:02
Mysterious Document Is Latest Blow for Dalian Wanda

SHANGHAI — A mysterious document circulating on Chinese social media purported that regulators had warned state-run banks against financing several overseas deals by the conglomerate, Dalian Wanda Group. Then a credit-rating agency expressed skepticism about the company’s debt.

The market reaction was swift on Monday, with shares and debt issued by several subsidiaries of Wanda falling sharply.

The mounting pressure on Wanda reflects the challenges facing large Chinese companies that borrowed heavily to finance their breathtaking growth over the last few years.

Policy makers and analysts are worried that conglomerates like Wanda, with debt tentacles extending across the financial system, could threaten the health of the broader economy. The rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, put Wanda on negative credit watch on Monday, saying its recent asset sales to pay down debt might cut into its revenue.

China’s leaders are pushing regulators and bankers to address the problems. President Xi Jinping in recent days convened top officials in Beijing for a conference on financial reform, calling for limits on corporate indebtedness that is steadily rising.

The mysterious document that went viral, before being blocked by Chinese censors, appeared to be a cellphone photo of the first page of an internal document from the Agricultural Bank of China. The document described two supposed meetings about Dalian Wanda, one involving a National Development and Reform Commission official, Zheng Chiping, and the other with China Banking Regulatory Commission officials.

The bank, the document said, was told by regulators that it was forbidden to lend to six of Wanda’s overseas acquisitions even if those ventures ran into difficulty raising money abroad. The regulators, the document said, also told the bank that it could not help the overseas projects with foreign currency or financial registrations.

The reform commission and the Agricultural Bank of China did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Wanda declined to comment.

At least two projects listed in the document fall under Wanda’s AMC Entertainment: its deals to acquire Carmike Cinemas and the Nordic Cinema Group deal. It is unclear to what extent AMC, as an American company, needs financing from Chinese banks — although controversy in China about the creditworthiness of AMC’s corporate parent could make non-Chinese lenders more wary as well.

But the document fed into market concern about the state of Wanda’s finances and its ability to borrow. The conglomerate is selling a portfolio of theme parks and hotels to Sunac China Holdings for $9.3 billion, with plans to use the money to pay back loans. Even so, Sunac said last week that Wanda was set to obtain a loan of about $4.4 billion — half the value of the deal — on its behalf.

To investors, it did not matter whether the document was authentic or regulators’ warnings were real: In this shaky environment, company stocks and bonds are proving volatile.

Shares in Wanda Hotel Development Company fell 5.8 percent in trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Monday. Various Wanda debt instruments fell between 0.65 percent to 1.22 percent.