S&P sees major opportunity in China’s $11 trillion bond market

U.S. financial services and ratings giant S&P Global is honing in on China’s $11 trillion bond market, a step that may spell good news for international investors in search of more reliable ratings for bonds.

Speaking to CNBC on Friday, S&P Global Chief Financial Officer Ewout Steenbergen explained that it’s a good time to enter China as Asia’s largest economy has lifted foreign ownership restrictions for credit ratings agencies.

Elaborating on the company’s plan to offer ratings services for the bond market there, Steenbergen said that S&P Global intends to start a new entity for its mainland business.

“We are expanding our market intelligence business in China, very specific local content, for example for Chinese private company data … But the most attractive opportunity we have is in the ratings business,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“It is the third-largest domestic bond market in the world, we think it will overtake Japan soon to become the second-largest domestic bond market,” added Steenbergen, who is also an executive vice president at S&P Global.

Beijing has said it wants to open up its financial sector to more foreign investment by the end of 2018, and allow foreign firms to compete on an equal footing with domestic companies in the sector. In the past, foreign ratings agencies had to work with Chinese partners.

Ratings by top agencies like S&P Global could attract more international investors, who previously had to rely only on Chinese ratings agencies — about whom there were concerns of overly positive assessments.

Steenbergen said he hopes that S&P Global’s move to enter that market can create more confidence.

“Today, Chinese domestic bonds, 2 percent are bought by international investors, 98 percent only by Chinese investors. And I think (how) we can help with the market is to create more maturity, more confidence. Of course, with our credibility to go in, hopefully we get more confidence of international investors stepping in, more capital flows towards China.”

Chinese bonds also recently became more accessible to international investors, with a newly implemented settlement system for the bond investment scheme connecting the mainland to Hong Kong announced in August. It’s significant because it opens up the market to more investors by meeting a widespread regulatory requirement.

Source: CNBC