- Shengjing demands repayment of debts due to it
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HONG KONG, Sept 29 (Reuters) – Scrambling to avoid defaulting on its debts, cash-strapped China Evergrande Group (3333.HK) said on Wednesday it plans to sell a 9.99 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) stake in Shengjing Bank Co Ltd (2066.HK) to a state-owned asset management company.
Shengjing Bank, one of the main lenders to Evergrande, had demanded that all net proceeds from the disposal be used to settle the financial liabilities of the property developer due to the lender, Evergrande said in an exchange filing.
That requirement suggests that Evergrande, which missed a bond interest payment last week, will be unable to use the funds for other purposes such as another interest payment to offshore bondholders of $47.5 million due on Wednesday.
The payment deadline is being closely watched by investors as the developer’s next big test in public markets. Shares of Evergrande rose as much as 15% on Wednesday. read more
Evergrande has rapidly become China’s biggest corporate headache as it teeters between a messy meltdown with far-reaching impacts, a managed collapse or the less likely prospect of a bailout by Beijing. read more
The 1.75 billion shares, representing 19.93% of the issued share capital of the bank, will be sold for 5.70 yuan apiece to Shenyang Shengjing Finance Investment Group Co Ltd, a state-owned enterprise involved in capital and asset management, Evergrande said in its filing.
Shenyang Shengjing’s stake in the bank will be increased to 20.79% after the deal to become the bank’s largest shareholder. Evergrande’s stake in the bank would be reduced to 14.75% from 34.5%.
“The company’s liquidity issue has adversely affected Shengjing Bank in a material way,” Evergrande Chairman Hui Ka Yan said in the statement.
“The introduction of the purchaser, being a state-owned enterprise, will help stabilise the operations of Shengjing Bank and at the same time, help increase and maintain the value of the 14.75% interest in Shengjing Bank retained by the company.”
As of the first half last year, the bank had 7 billion yuan in loans to Evergrande, making it the third-largest onshore lender to the cash-strapped company, according to a report by brokerage CCB International last week, citing news reports.
The financial health of Shengjing Bank has come under the spotlight since May, after financial news outlet Caixin reported that China’s top banking watchdog was investigating connected transactions worth more than 100 billion yuan ($15.45 billion) between Evergrande and the bank.
On July 5, Evergrande said in a statement its financial business with Shengjing complied with legal requirements.
Days after that announcement, China’s northern city of Shenyang, where Shengjing is based, encouraged local state-owned companies to increase stakes in the bank.
The Shenyang government said it valued reforms at Shengjing Bank and would strengthen the Communist Party leadership in the bank to help it develop into “a good bank,” according to a statement in July. read more
Beijing is prodding government-owned firms and state-backed property developers to purchase some of embattled China Evergrande Group’s assets, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Tuesday. read more
Shengjing reported a net profit of 1.03 billion yuan in the first half of 2021, down 63.6% from a year earlier, citing the impact of COVID-19, a decline in net interest income and increased provisions for impairment losses of assets due to “increased uncertainty of business operations”.
The bank’s non-performing loan ratio stood at 3.04% by the end-June, higher than the industry-wide average of nearly 2%.
Reporting by Donny Kwok and Anne Marie Roantree; additional reporting by Cheng Leng in Beijing; Editing by Stephen Coates & Simon Cameron-Moore
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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UBS logs surprise 9% rise in Q3 net profit
UBS posted a 9% rise in third-quarter net profit on Tuesday, as continued trading helped the world’s largest wealth manager to its best quarterly profit since 2015.
Its third-quarter net profit of $2.279 billion far outpaced a median estimate of $1.596 billion from a poll of 23 analysts compiled by Switzerland’s largest bank.
“Our business momentum, our focus on fueling growth, on disciplined execution and on delivering our full ecosystem to clients – all of this led to another strong quarter across all of our business divisions and regions,” Chief Executive Ralph Hamers said in a statement.
In each of the last four quarters, UBS saw double-digit percent gains in net profit as buoyant markets helped it generate higher earnings off of managing money for the rich.
From July through September, favourable market conditions, and higher lending and trading amongst its wealthy clientele, unexpectedly helped raise earnings over the bumper levels reported in the third quarter of last year.
(Reporting by Oliver Hirt and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Michael Shields and Edwina Gibbs)
Analysis: Capitol Hill drug pricing reform opponents among the biggest beneficiaries of pharma funds
Democratic Party lawmakers holding up proposed drug pricing reforms are among the largest beneficiaries of the pharmaceutical industry’s push to stave off price cuts, a Reuters analysis of public lobbying and campaign data shows.
The industry, which traditionally gives more to Republicans, channeled around 60% of donated campaign funds to Democrats this year. It has spent over $177 million on lobbying and campaign donations in 2021.
Nonprofit political action committees (PACs) run by Pfizer Inc and Amgen Inc and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) were among the biggest donors, according to political spending data from OpenSecrets, formerly the Center for Responsive Politics.
Drugmakers are seeking to block laws that would give the U.S. government authority to negotiate prices for prescription medicines. Current U.S. law bars the government’s Medicare health insurance program from negotiating drug prices directly.
Many of the Democrats opposing an ambitious drug reduction bill proposed in the House of Representatives are among some of the biggest recipients of drug manufacturer lobbying funds.
They include Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Representative Scott Peters of California, OpenSecrets data covering industry donations through September of 2021 shows. In all, they have received around $1 million in pharmaceutical and health product industry donations this year.
A spokesperson for Sinema did not respond to a request for comment on the funds she has received but said the Senator supports making drugs as cheap as possible for patients.
Menendez and Peters said the donations did not influence their views. All three said they are opposed to The Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which is sponsored by Democrats in the House of Representatives and also known as H.R.3.
Menendez and Peters have advocated for alternative scaled-back drug pricing reforms that would still allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices but would lead to significantly smaller savings.
Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, who is also one of the top recipients of drugmaker donations, voted in favor of H.R.3.
Sinema, who campaigned in 2018 on cutting drug prices, told the White House she opposes allowing Medicare to negotiate them. She received about $466,000 from the industry in 2021, according to OpenSecrets data.
Peters was the top recipient of pharmaceutical industry funds in the House this year at nearly $99,550, according to OpenSecrets data. A spokesperson said Peters was not influenced by lobbying money and opposed the proposed law to protect pharmaceutical industry jobs and innovation.
Drugmakers say the Democrats’ proposed drug price overhaul would undermine their ability to develop new medicines, an argument they have used whenever price cuts are discussed by politicians regardless of political party.
“Patients face a future with less hope under Congress’ current drug pricing plan,” PhRMA Chief Executive Steve Ubl said in an August statement in reference to the proposed law. PhRMA declined to comment on donating to key Democratic opponents of the bill.
The United States is an outlier as most other developed nations do negotiate drug prices with manufacturers.
Amgen did not immediately respond to requests for comment on its donations and Pfizer declined to comment.
PROSPECTS FOR REFORM
President Joe Biden has vowed to cut medicine costs, in part by allowing the federal government to negotiate drug payments by Medicare, which covers Americans aged 65 and older.
But prospects for major drug pricing reforms have stalled in recent weeks amid opposition from centrist Democrats including Sinema and Peters. Negotiations are ongoing, eight Democratic staffers said.
The lawmakers’ resistance comes as 83% of Americans support allowing Medicare to negotiate medicine costs, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. The United States spends more than twice as much per person on drugs as other wealthy economies, about $1,500, for a total of around $350 billion in 2019.
“Members of Congress don’t always mirror the views of the public and the pharmaceutical industry is a powerful lobbying force,” said Larry Levitt, a health economist at Kaiser.
The healthcare industry is the second largest industry lobbying group in the United States behind the finance sector. It donated more than $600 million to politicians ahead of the 2020 elections.
The pharmaceutical industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars per year to sway federal and state policy. But current Democratic leadership has the industry concerned major reforms could actually be enacted and is working harder to offer alternatives such as reducing insurance co-pays, one industry source said. “It’s been sort of a mad scramble.”
Corporations in the United States are not permitted to make direct contributions to candidates but can give money through PACs. Most corporate PACs, including Pfizer’s and Amgen’s, are run by company managers and employees.
Democrats and some drug price experts say the Lower Drug Costs Now Act could save U.S. taxpayers and consumers billions annually with relatively minor impact on innovation.
A House Oversight and Reform Committee report showed that top drugmakers have spent around $50 billion more on share buybacks and dividends than research and development between 2016 and 2020.
Lovisa Gustafsson, a healthcare policy analyst at the Commonwealth Fund, a non-profit healthcare advocacy group, said, “There are other ways that we can incentivize innovation, aside from just paying huge margins for pharmaceutical companies.”
(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein in Washington and Carl O’Donnell in New York; Editing by Caroline Humer and Bill Berkrot)
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