Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Debt and Negative Free Cash Flow Drives Chinese Auto Industry in Second Quarter of 2017.

In the second quarter of 2017, the Chinese auto industry has seen significant growth in sales, but many companies have not been able to convert this into free cash flow. Both banks and suppliers are providing the industry with artificial credit that is misallocating capital.

China Auto Logistics, Inc. (Nasdaq:  CALI) reported $138.7 million in net sales in China during the three months ended June 30, 2017, up 47.9% over the prior year. However, the company had negative net income and generated negative cash flows from operations. Loan agreements from two Chinese banks facilitated these results. Agricultural Bank of China (HKEX:  1288) loaned the company CNY35.0 million, bearing interest at a rate of 4.79% over a borrowing period of six months. China Zheshang Bank (HKEX:  2016) loaned the company CNY54.0 million, bearing interest at a weighted average rate of 5.50% over six-month borrowing periods.

SORL Auto Parts, Inc. (Nasdaq:  SORL) generated US$70 million in China during the three months ended June 30, 2017, up 25.9% over the same period in the prior year. Sales within China accounted for 77.6% of total sales. Although the company reported US$14.2 million in net income, a US$16.8 million increase in accounts receivables was the largest contributor to negative US$3.2 million operating cash flows. To accommodate this, the company increased short-term bank loans from US$27.4 million on December 31, 2016 to US$47.0 million on June 30, 2017. These short-term loans were obtained from Bank of China (HKEX:  3988), Bank of Ningbo (Shenzhen:  002142), Agricultural Bank of China, China Zheshang Bank, and China Construction Bank (HKEX:  0939). The annualized interest expenses paid in the three months ended June 30, 2017 equate to an average interest rate of 4.6% on those loans.

China Auto Logistics, Inc. generated impressive sales growth, but was unable to due so profitably or convert that growth into free cash flow. SORL Auto Parts, Inc. grew sales revenue quickly and profitably, but grew debt faster and generated negative free cash flow. This indicates that the growth in the Chinese auto industry is disproportionately driven by cheap credit, which in this case was particularly driven by China Zheshang Bank.