SHANGHAI: Hundreds of listed Chinese companies: from hog farmers struggling to buy pig feed, to glassware makers unable to collect receivables: flagged big losses for 2018, victim to a slowing economy and Beijing's deleveraging.
Once-acquisitive companies, who paid top dollar for assets during the boom years, are being forced to take heavy write-downs that are weighing on their balance sheets already weakened by a bruising Sino-U.S. trade war.
As of Wednesday, 129 companies estimated losses in excess of 800 million yuan (US$119.3 million) each for 2018, the Shanghai Securities News reported. Nearly 200 others flagged losses of over 100 million yuan each.
China's economy grew at its slowest pace in nearly three decades last year, as ramped-up deleveraging efforts to curb shadow banking triggered a funding squeeze among smaller firms and choked the private sector.
Economic growth is expected to ease further this year.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite index has fallen more than a quarter in the past 12 months.
"The economy was already cooling, and suddenly we had the trade war, which is why we're seeing so many earnings implosions," said Yang Hongxun, an analyst with investment consultancy Shandong Shenguang.
"But it's possible some companies are using the bad year for an accounting big bath, so future results will look better."
Robin Xing, Morgan Stanley's chief China economist, said he was optimistic on Chinese stocks in 2019, betting that recent measures, including tax cuts, infrastructure investment and looser monetary conditions, will help stabilize growth.
Chinese companies are rushing to post profit warnings ahead of a regulatory deadline at the end of January.
Chuying Agro-Pastoral Group Co, which breeds pigs and poultry, said late on Wednesday that it will swing to a loss of 2.9-3.3 billion yuan in 2018, compared with a profit of 45 million yuan a year earlier.
The company said some pigs starved to death because they did not have the cash to buy feed on time. Asset and goodwill impairment write-downs also contributed to the loss, it said.
An estimated 1.45 trillion yuan (US$216.17 billion) of goodwill impairment is sitting on the books of listed Chinese companies, threatening to worsen troubles of many firms already struggling to make margin calls.
Some firms, including gaming company Dalian Zeus Entertainment Co and Kaidi Ecological, forecast annual losses that exceed their market value.
(US$1 = 6.7076 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Brenda Goh and Samuel Shen; Editing by Shreejay Sinha and Subhranshu Sahu)