Chinese media told to tone down coverage of giant firms’ debt, finance woes
Chinese media outlets were told not to play up the financial and debt problems of big Chinese conglomerates such as HNA Group and Dalian Wanda Group, according to two sources briefed on the instructions issued by the authorities.
The instructions issued a few weeks ago were not a ban on coverage of specific companies, but a reminder that media reports should not help stir or spread market panic, the sources said.
Another two sources with Chinese state media told the South China Morning Post general guidelines on cautious reporting to ensure market stability were always in place, but were often updated with more specific instructions if there were signs of turbulence in the markets.
Sections of Chinese media are directly controlled by the government, with other commercial outlets subject to routine scrutiny by official censors.
A leaked document from China’s banking regulator last June showed Beijing was placing the country’s high-profile global deal makers under increased scrutiny, although the Chinese government has never named any companies targeted in official statements.
The Chinese leadership under President Xi Jinping has made bringing financial risks under control – including high levels of corporate debt – a top priority. The government has criticised some deals to buy overseas property and assets, financed through debt, as “irrational” and a potential threat to financial stability.
The Chinese conglomerate HNA Group has seen a slump in subsidiaries’ share prices after chairman Chen Feng said in an interview with the Reuters news agency last week that the group faces liquidity problems.
HNA Investment Group announced it was suspending stock trading on Wednesday, the seventh HNA subsidiary to halt share sales in China after it shares fell 5.4 per cent on Monday.
Hainan HNA Infrastructure Investment, another subsidiary, fell by the 10 per cent daily limit on Monday and HNA Innovation plunged nearly 10 per cent on the same day.
Dalian Wanda Group, headed by the Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, has been selling off assets at home and abroad to repay debts.
Dalian Wanda reported a nearly 11 per cent drop in revenue in 2017. Its Hong Kong listed unit, Wanda Hotel Development, has suspended trading amid a deal to sell Australian property projects.
The group’s subsidiary listed in mainland China, Wanda Film Holding, has halted trading since last July.