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Indonesia, not China, boasted highest number of Asia corporate defaults until recently: Moody's

China is currently the leading source of Asian corporate defaults, but it hasn't always been that way.

From 1990 up until the first half of 2016, Indonesia actually boasted the largest number of defaults in the region, with a total of 74 issuers failing to honor $16 billion worth of debt, according to a new Moody's report. The mainland came in second during that period, with 55 issuers defaulting on $18 billion.

A teller counts yuan bank notes in a bank in Lianyungang, China.
STR | AFP | Getty Images

In terms of total debt gone sour, South Korea took first place, with 50 issuers defaulting on approximately $22 billion of debt.

Starting from the second half of 2016, the mainland eclipsed Indonesia as the biggest contributor to Asian defaults against a backdrop of weakened commodity prices accompanying a domestic economic slowdown, Moody's said.

From 2014 to 2016H1, the world's second-largest economy recorded 27 defaults affecting $10.3 billion of debt, accounting for roughly two-thirds of the region's default tally, according to the report. 

Going forward, China's economic and liquidity situation will determine the pace of defaults, Clara Lau, Moody's senior vice president of credit strategy and standards, told CNBC.

Across the Asia-Pacific region, the bulk of defaults occurred during the last years of the 1990s in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. From the early 2000s, the number of incidents dropped significantly, with zero rated defaults from 2004 to 2007, the report said.

But the regional situation worsened once the global financial crisis hit, with a total of 44 issuers defaulting on $5.8 billion of debt in total during 2008-2010.

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"Most recently, default activity has rebounded in 2014-2016H1 as metals and mining companies and related service providers have come under tremendous pressure due to oversupply issues and weak demand in the commodities sector."

By count, construction and building accounted for 16 percent of Asia's 316 defaults from 1990-2016H1, the report noted, while metals and mining made up 12 percent. Since 2014, the two sectors have remained the most troubled.

"Commodity sectors will continue to be under greater risk of defaults when compared to other industries. Speculative-grade issuers in the metals & mining and oil & gas sectors are expected to see their default rate at 10.1 percent by mid-2017, comparing to 2.5 percent for non-commodity sectors," Moody's estimated.

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