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Asia CommentTaipan

Is it all in the name? Not really

Letter cubes of made of wood around typewriter-adobe-2022

How much do investors care about the actual name of a bond-issuing vehicle in Asia?

I've long been fascinated by the rather unique names given to some of the bond issuing vehicles of Asian borrowers. So fascinated that I even spent a fair bit of my time during the recent Hong Kong lockdown coming up with my own version of a pub quiz for my friends.

This week, I got to test out the game with some of them. The rules are simple enough: recall the names of the parent companies of the bond issuers. Take a shot every time you get one wrong. And, of course, no Googling allowed.

I started with an easy one that everyone can guess correctly: Scenery Journey. After all, nearly everyone who has been watching the developments in China's property bond market knows that this is an issuing entity of China Evergrande Group.

The second was Celestial Dynasty. This one is slightly harder, unless you know that its parent NWS Holding issued bonds recently. Easy Tactic was another simple warm-up question, as the Chinese developer has been going through tough times lately.

At this point, I decided to take the difficulty level up a few notches (few of my mates had yet had a chance to take a shot, so it was time to get them in on the fun).

Everyone scratched their heads over some of these names: Long Hair International, Victory Ovation, Soar Wise, Champion Sincerity, Blue Sea, Excellent View International and Sunny Express Enterprises. Drinks began to quickly flow from there as each of the bond bankers around me failed to remember which companies these issuers belonged to.

For those wondering about this select group of names, I’ll let you in on a little secret.

When these companies register their bond issuing entities in tax havens like the British Virgin Islands, they don’t get much choice in selecting the names.

Because millions of shell companies are registered in these tax havens, the registration agents simply hand over a list of names to choose from, leaving little room for branding. It's all then down to the company management, whether they want to call their vehicle something like Long Hair or Sunny Express.

It may be slim pickings for them. But for me, my little pub quiz was a big success — and looks unlikely to get old anytime soon.

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