China’s biggest banks and state-owned companies have been told to check their financial exposure to Fosun, the sprawling conglomerate that owns assets including the Premier League football club Wolverhampton Wanderers, as the heavily debt-laden group struggles from the impact of downturn in the property sector in its home market.
The financial strength of the Shanghai-based group, co-founded in 1992 by the billionaire Guo Guangchang and built into one of China’s largest non-state-owned conglomerates, has come under scrutiny after a huge sell-off in property bonds that began in June.
Dollar bonds guaranteed by the Hong Kong-listed Fosun International, the group’s leading business, have plummeted, sending its shares to lows not recorded in almost a decade.
On Tuesday, it emerged that regulators including China’s banking watchdog and the local commission that oversees state investments have told institutions they oversee to examine the financial risks associated with exposure to Fosun.
Last month, the rating agency Moody’s downgraded Fosun International with an outlook on all ratings moved to negative reflecting “refinancing uncertainties” on its $40bn (£34bn) debt and risks involved with any asset sell-offs to raise cash in tougher economic conditions.
A spokesperson for Fosun, which owns a global portfolio of investments including Portugal’s biggest bank and the French fashion house Lanvin, said it did not receive any notice from authorities about the financial exposure requests, according to Bloomberg.
The spokesperson subsequently contacted the Beijing State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC) and was told that the practice is part of its “normal research” and has previously involved other companies, adding that Fosun’s operations remain “healthy and resilient”.
While the company remains under intense pressure in China, the world’s second-largest market, Fosun has said many of its international businesses have recovered from the pandemic.
Its subsidiary Fosun Tourism, which owns brands including Thomas Cook, Club Med and Atlantis, said that in the first half of this year revenues were up 130% compared with the same period last year.
Fosun Tourism said it “maintains a healthy and sound financial position”, adding that bookings at Club Med reached 90% of pre-pandemic levels.