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Nikkei Markets

HONG KONG PRESS: News Headlines On Thursday, February 15

By Hong Kong Newsroom
Nikkei Markets
HONG KONG (Feb 15) -- Here's a roundup of local news:

*Hong Kong on alert after China confirms world's first human case of H7N4 bird flu

Mainland China has confirmed the world's first human case of a virulent bird flu strain, prompting Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection to issue an alert for the city. The centre said health authorities confirmed this month that a 68-year-old woman in Jiangsu province had been infected with H7N4 avian influenza after developing symptoms on Dec. 25. The woman was admitted to hospital on New Year's Day and was discharged on Jan. 22. She had contact with live poultry before she developed symptoms but no person in close contact with the woman had similar symptoms, the centre said. - South China Morning Post

*China's Currency Policy May Be Facing a New Chapter

In the fraught history of Chinese currency policy, a new chapter could be looming this year as authorities consider the consequences of a yuan that's testing its strongest levels since mid-2015. After successfully shutting off potentially destabilizing capital outflows and putting a floor under the yuan, policy makers may now have the luxury of looking at relaxing some of the strictures on domestic money. But China watchers warn that any moves are likely to be gradual and calibrated, given the turmoil of 2015 -- when a sliding yuan spooked global markets. "Big changes in the capital account are less likely, but some slight easing can be expected," said Xia Le, chief Asia economist at Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA in Hong Kong. Policy makers have put a priority on deleveraging, "which is likely to cause instability," he said -- all the more reason to go cautiously on cross-border flows. - Bloomberg News

*Hong Kong anti-graft body raids clinic operator as probe into Convoy financial scandal widens

Hong Kong's anti-graft body and market regulator have searched the offices of medical clinic operator Town Health International Medical Group in the latest move in their joint investigation into a web of wrongdoing surrounding financial advisory firm Convoy Global Holdings. The Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Securities and Futures Commission executed a search warrant on February 9 at the premises of the medical clinic group in the northern Sha Tin area, Town Health International said in a filing to the stock exchange late on Tuesday night. The crackdown on Convoy and related companies that began in December is Hong Kong's largest anti-graft and market misconduct case, and has led to the arrests of four people, including Convoy's former chairman, Quincy Wong Lee-man, and Mark Mak Kwong-yiu, former chairman of a related financial services firm, Lerado. - South China Morning Post

*China's Debt-Laden Dealmakers Eyed by Restructuring Firms

Chinese deal makers that racked up debts for overseas deals and are now reversing course to pay down borrowings have attracted the attention of restructuring specialists. As President Xi Jinping steps up leverage curbs, borrowing costs in China have jumped. The nation's most high-profile deal makers including HNA Group Co. have come under mounting regulatory scrutiny, and have been selling assets as they try to rein in borrowings. HNA missed payments to several Chinese banks and its bond yields have in recent months traded at times at levels that are often considered distressed. - Bloomberg News

*Debt-Laden HNA's Credit Assessment Cut by S&P

Debt-laden Chinese conglomerate HNA Group Co. had its credit assessment cut for the second time in less than three months by S&P Global Ratings, which cited significant debt maturities amid deteriorating liquidity. Separately, some HNA directors and top executives have purchased offshore dollar bonds guaranteed by the group, according to an emailed statement Wednesday that didn't disclose the amount. The company is in a "very healthy" financial position, it said. S&P lowered HNA's credit profile to ccc+ from b. Group credit profile assessments are based on publicly available information and don't incorporate the same access to management meetings and data S&P would have in an official rating of an issuer. - Bloomberg News

*China's HNA bosses buy dollar bonds after S&P credit cut

Some HNA Group board directors and senior managers have bought offshore dollar bonds guaranteed by the Chinese conglomerate in the latest effort to shore up its finances. The aviation-to-financial group did not name the buyers or the value of the bonds purchased and declined to provide any additional information when contacted by Reuters. S&P Global Ratings has downgraded the credit profile of HNA Group and two of its units, citing a "deteriorating liquidity profile" as it faces mounting debt maturities this year. After announcing $50 billion of deals over two years, HNA was, like other Chinese firms, hit by increased scrutiny of its finances as Beijing grew wary of its acquisition spree. - Reuters

*Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin sells Atletico Madrid stake as Wanda continues to trim debt

Dalian Wanda Group has agreed to sell a 17 per cent stake in Atletico de Madrid to Quantum Pacific Group controlled by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer, the latest move by the Chinese conglomerate to cut its debt, the Spanish soccer club said on Wednesday. Quantum Pacific's stake in the football club will rise to 32 per cent, but the club stopped short of disclosing the deal's value. In 2015, Wanda bought a 20 per cent stake in the football club for US$52 million, the first time a Chinese company had invested in a premier European football club. - South China Morning Post

*China's Harbin Pharma to buy stake in U.S. health retailer GNC

China's state-controlled drugmaker Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Holding Co (600664.SS) will buy an about 40 percent stake in U.S. nutritional supplements retailer GNC Holdings for $300 million and are in talks for a joint venture in China, the companies said. GNC has agreed to sell 299,950 convertible preferred shares to Harbin Pharma at $1,000 apiece, the U.S. firm said in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The two companies are also looking to set up a China joint venture, which would be 65 percent owned by Harbin Pharma. - Reuters

*Richard Li denies Faraday report

A Hong Kong-based investor is injecting US$1.5 billion (HK$11.73 billion) - US$550 million of which is already in the bank, into the business of Faraday Future, a venture by the founder of LeEco, Jia Yueting, Business Insider reported. It has been reported that the chairman of PCCW, Richard Li Tzar-kai, is the backer, However, his spokesperson denied the news and said it is interested in such a venture. Jia, who has been ordered by financial regulators to return to China, attended Faraday's supplier event in California yesterday. - The Standard
- By Hong Kong Newsroom;
- Edited by Glen Nicol Perkinson
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- Copyright (c) 2018 Nikkei NewsRise Asia Pte. Ltd.

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