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Troubled Antong mulls restructuring options

Chinese state-owned groups China Merchants Port Holdings (CMPH) and Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) have expressed an interest in restructuring troubled Chinese domestic container shipping group Antong Holdings.

In filings submitted to the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) on 24 July 2020, Antong, which operates a liner service through Quanzhou Ansheng Shipping, said that it had signed an agreement with AVIC Trust, a non-banking financial institution.

On 28 July 2020, Antong made another filing to SSE, stating that it had received a “letter of support” from China Merchants Port Holdings, which expressed its inclination to join AVIC Trust in restructuring the company.

Antong stated that its shareholders and creditors have reached a consensus on the debt restructuring, and CMPH intends to make a strategic investment in the company to assist in improving Antong’s operations.

Antong said, “AVIC Trust intends to participate in the company’s reorganisation work mainly to help the company resolve liquidity difficulties and reform.”

From February 2017 to March 2019, Guo Dongze, one of the two brothers who are the company’s major shareholders, provided unauthorised guarantees amounting to CNY633.36 million (US$90.15 million) for a number of transactions involving the company.

The provision of external guarantees resulted in around 30 lawsuits filed against Antong Holdings, seeking around CNY600 million (US$86.8 million).

At the creditors’ request, liner operator Quanzhou Ansheng and freight forwarder Quanzhou Antong, have been under court-led restructuring since December 2019. Although Guo Dongze and his brother, Guo Dongsheng, control a combined 54.32% stake in Antong Holdings, they relinquished control in September 2019, after CMPH and AVIC Trust, established China Merchants Antong Logistics Management Co., a joint venture with Antong. This appeared to be the precursor to a government bailout.

Martina Li
Asia Correspondent

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