[Flashback] Beanie Babies Vs Vendor Financing: Can the ‘Product’ (and Asia) Stand On Its Own? Revisiting Off-Balance Sheet Receivables in Chinese Construction Machinery Companies

Excerpts from “Beanie Babies Vs Vendor Financing: Can the ‘Product’ (and Asia) Stand On Its Own?, July 2012 edition in On the Ground in Asia publication by KB Kee 

Is this happening in America or Asia? All day long, people are charging in and screaming, “Which Beanie Baby do you have today?” Tempers flared as long lines forms for the stuffed toys, sold along with a Happy Meal, which were the cause of many fights. Theft of toys was prevalent at the height of their popularity and there was an active secondary second-hand market for them after the promotion.

The Beanie Babies craze from 1996-2000 caused Warren Buffett to be cautious in McDonald’s, one of the most recognizable brand names in the world. Yet, McDonald’s is not one of the core buy-and-hold stocks in Berkshire’s holdings, as explained by Buffett in a talk to MBA students in 1998:

“People don’t want to be eating – exception to the kids when they are giving away Beanie Babies or something – at McDonald’s every day. If people drink five Cokes a day, they probably will drink five of them tomorrow… I like the products that stand alone absent price promotions or appeals although you can build a very good business based on that.”

  • Warren Buffett, October 1998

As China slows down, the classic quote of Buffett becomes increasingly relevant: “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.” When everyone is enjoying good times, you don’t know who has taken on excessive risks. And multibagger opportunities present themselves to the diligent value investors who have been monitoring closely the few swimmers with unique, scalable business models run by farsighted outstanding entrepreneurs as they distinguish themselves from the weaker companies reliant on “Beanie Baby” incentives to push sales of products that might not be able to “stand alone” and at the expense of their balance sheet. This “Beanie Baby” incentive practice is increasingly being questioned in varied industries, from shipyards, construction and telecom equipment to property, autos and retail.

Emboldened by attractive Beanie-Baby-like vendor financing and generous credit terms with zero downpayment provided by construction equipment companies, buyers of these machines have been very aggressive in their purchases, resulting in China to account for 60% of worldwide concrete consumption, bubbling far above the so-called “concrete scowl”.

There are concerns that these buyers, which include debt-laden and cash-strapped property developers, are using the machines as collateral for further loans. Analysts at Jefferies in HK, who were reported by the media this month to have travelled to Jiangsu province to study the concrete market, said that more than half of the concrete machines sold by a prominent Chinese construction equipment company had not even been switched on and were lying idle in storage. In our “On the Ground in Asia” March 2011 edition, we mentioned that one Asian top manager shared with us how his MNC counterpart in China told him that they might not be able to sell any new equipment in China this year. He thought his MNC friend was joking to him until he was told the reason for the pessimism was because two-thirds of the machines sold were not turned on as indicated by the GPS tracking signal. Industry executives are reported to be talking of a “collapse” and are looking to export their way out of trouble via acquiring overseas companies and setting up overseas factories, often used as fronts for more loans.

In the case of the construction machinery industry, the accounting bent in us also noted how the sellers of these machines have not recorded these vendor financing activities on the balance sheet and do not have proper bad debt provisions on the corresponding ballooning off-balance-sheet receivables despite the fact that banks require them to guarantee loan/lease payments in the event of customer defaults. These off-balance sheet receivables, estimated to be connected to around 30% of total sales in the industry, should be treated as debt on the liability side since it is the same as the machinery companies incurring a debt and then selling the machines to customers on credit. The cashflow from operations that come from this vendor financing activity should be re-categorised as cashflow from financing, which would turn most of these companies to be running negative cashflow positions in the last four years.

Since the loss amount on a loan default is the difference between the outstanding loan and the residual value of the machine that can be salvaged, and most of the financing consider the equipment as collateral, the second-hand market is important in understanding the scope of loss. In North America, the fair market value (FMV), orderly value (OLV) and forced liquidation value (FLV) of used equipment were around 75%, 64% and 54% of the equipment costs, respectively, generally in line with the write-off ratio of 40% on average.

The second-hand machine market in China, however, is much less mature than that in the developed countries. Domestic machinery manufacturers‟ single-minded focus on new machine sales and lack of refurbishing capabilities also hurt the value of second-hand machines. Most machines can only be sold at around 30-40% of the original price when they are three year-old. Yet, the loss rate of these receivables reported at the machinery companies are less than 1%, much lower than the 40% write-off ratio on average at say Caterpillar’s financing receivables.

It is likely that many repossessed machines were sold internally within the company and became part of its operating lease fleet, consequently hiding the net impact on P&L. It is now very prevalent for dealers to give their customer cash advance to avoid towing back of equipment and reflected in the default rate for the machinery companies. We are cautious whenever we hear from bullish analysts and promoters about how machinery and cyclical companies are “cheap” on a price-to-book historical valuation basis.


Managing the Balance Sheet with Operating Leases; Fims investigated by the SEC or DOJ for financial misrepresentation exhibit high levels of unexplained operating leases

Click to access CFS_managing_August7%202012.pdf


Managing the Balance Sheet with Operating Leases

Kimberly Rodgers Cornaggia American University – Kogod School of Business

Laurel Franzen Loyola Marymount University

Timothy T. Simin Pennsylvania State University
July 19, 2012

We test whether firms use the off balance sheet (OBS) treatment of operating leases in order to strengthen their balance sheets. We find that firms’ lease versus buy decision has changed over time. Time series evidence suggests that firms and industries not expected to have traditional economic benefits of leasing are increasingly financing with operating leases. We infer that such firms use operating leases to expand OBS debt capacity and we explore their incentives to report conservative balance sheets. We find that (1) OBS leasing allows firms to better manage debt covenants limiting debt or capital expenditures (2) unexplained OBS leasing is diminished by scrutiny of institutional investors and (3) firms investigated by the SEC or DOJ for financial misrepresentation exhibit high levels of unexplained operating leases.

Chinese banks pile up risks through loans to financial leasing firms


Chinese banks pile up risks through loans to financial leasing firms

Wed, Jan 21 2015

By Engen Tham

SHANGHAI, Jan 22 (Reuters) – Chinese banks scrambling to meet capital adequacy rules have stepped up lending to financial leasing companies in the past year as they move away from traditional corporate loans that require them to set aside more funds as provisions.

Under global regulations known as BASEL III introduced last year, China’s biggest banks have to increase their capital as a percentage of their assets. To help free up funds to meet the rules, banks are looking for ways to cut provisions for some loans – even if they have to lend to companies leasing ships, tractors and building equipment in some of China’s most vulnerable sectors. Continue reading

[Flashback] How Caterpillar got bulldozed in China


Posted by YEO Wei Lin, Year 3 undergrad at the School of Accountancy, Singapore Management University

ZHENGZHOU, China, Jan. 23 (Reuters) – Asia’s top mergers and acquisitions bankers gathered two years ago at the swanky Island Shangri La in Hong Kong to celebrate the top deals of 2012. As the transactions were being toasted, one was unraveling.

Advisers on Caterpillar Inc’s $677 million purchase of ERA Mining Machinery Ltd picked up an award for cross-border deal of the year. The purchase was billed as a coup for Caterpillar, the world’s top maker of tractors and excavators. ERA was the holding company for Zhengzhou Siwei Mechanical & Electrical Equipment Manufacturing Co Ltd, one of China’s biggest makers of hydraulic coal-mine roof supports. Siwei would help Caterpillar gain traction in the world’s largest coal industry. Continue reading

[Flashback] India’s market regulator accuses Factorial of insider trading


Posted by YEO Wei Lin, Year 3 undergrad at the School of Accountancy, Singapore Management University

(Reuters) – India’s stock market regulator accused Hong Kong-based Factorial Capital Management Ltd of insider trading, saying it suspected the hedge fund had shorted L&T Finance Holdings Ltd before the announcement of a share sale in the company in mid-March. Continue reading

[Flashback] China’s Tianhe denies overstating profits, cites investor support


Posted by YEO Wei Lin, Year 3 undergrad at the School of Accountancy, Singapore Management University

(Reuters) – Tianhe Chemicals (1619.HK) has denied allegations that it made false statements in its initial public offering prospectus and said key investor Morgan Stanley Private Equity Asia (MSPEA) has given it full support.

A report by Anonymous Analytics, which describes itself as a “faction” of the hacker group Anonymous, accused the Chinese chemicals company of conducting “one of the largest stock market frauds ever conceived,” based on analyses of different company reports, tax statements, market analysis and visits to customers mentioned in Tianhe filings. Continue reading

[FLASHBACK] Should Employers Offer Financial Incentives for Whistleblowing



Posted by CHEN Tiancheng, Year 4 undergrad at the School of Accountancy, Singapore Management University

Should Employers Offer Financial Incentives for Whistleblowing

It is well known that many employees do not blow the whistle for fear of repercussions if they do (from harassment to dismissal and various poor treatment in between). So should we offer incentives to employees to follow a whistleblowing procedure, in order that health and safety breaches and other illegality can be promptly brought to employers’ attention and swift remedial steps taken? Continue reading

[Flashback] Big 4 Audit Firms Play Big Role in Offshore Murk


Posted by NG Sin Ying, Year 4 undergrad at the School of Accountancy, Singapore Management University

Global accounting giants are prime architects of the offshore money maze – and supporting characters in an array of offshore scandals

For more than a decade, tax gurus at PricewaterhouseCoopers helped Caterpillar Inc., the U.S. heavy equipment maker, move profits produced by its lucrative spare-parts business from the U.S. to a tiny subsidiary in Switzerland. Continue reading