By Scott Murdoch
HONG KONG, April 6 (Reuters) - Companies in the Asia Pacific need to raise a near record $69.3 billion to refinance their existing borrowings in the second quarter, Refinitiv figures show, as the region's capital markets remain turbulent due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The level of U.S. dollar corporate debt due to mature in the region, including Japan and China, is the second highest on record and only slightly behind the $71.4 billion that was due during the same time last year.
Some of China's largest state-owned enterprises are the leading contenders to refinance debt with oil giant Sinopec Group, which has a 5-year bond worth $2.48 billion maturing in April while power utility State Grid has a three-year $898.5 million bond expiring at the same time, according to Refinitiv.
The data shows a Soft Bank Group bond worth $2.48 billion due to mature on April 18, and the conglomerate flagged it planned to carry out $41 billion worth of asset sales to buy back shares and pay down debt.
Australia's banks are likely to be active in the U.S. dollar bond markets in the next few months with National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corp having a combined $3.14 billion worth of bonds due to expire.
The rush of refinancing deals comes as Asia's debt markets are performing well behind the rest of the world.
Bankers said well known corporates should be able to refinance but lower rated companies and those with ratings considered 'on the edge' by ratings agencies could face trouble.
"Massive stimulus has been provided by governments worldwide as they seek to keep the wheels turning. It remains to be seen how this will translate into support for the more challenged credits in the coming weeks," said Raj Malhotra, head of Societe Generale's Asia Pacific debt capital markets (DCM) unit.
JPMorgan's head of Asian DCM origination, excluding Japan, Amy Tan said an increasing number of Asian businesses were looking to diversify their funding sources this year.
"Companies are looking at all forms of alternative financing, including bank loans and local currency markets, to manage financing," she said.
A record $220 billion has been raised in the U.S. corporate credit market in the past fortnight, while just $2.57 billion has been raised in Asia during that same time, Refinitiv data shows..
The majority of the Asian volume was made up of Chinese search engine company Baidu Inc and insurer AIA raising $1 billion each last week.
Nomura's head of Asia, excluding Japan, DCM syndication Alister Moss said Asian markets were lagging the United States and Europe because of their respective central banks' moves to allow increased credit purchases which gave bond markets confidence. "We don't have that in Asia, and so our market is recovering more slowly." (Editing by Jacqueline Wong)