Now, Hendry is focusing his rhetoric — and investing strategy — on a bigger target: China. He’s betting that growth in the world’s No. 2 economy will collapse because of rampant real-estate speculation, sending shock waves through Asia and beyond. The problem, Hendry says, is that China’s gross domestic product growth isn’t matched by wealth creation at home. In his doom-laden scenario, a plunge in Chinese stock prices and property values will be exacerbated by a softening demand for the country’s exports, triggering an extended period of global deflation and slower growth.
Hendry, a combative Scotsman, is betting against China in an unusual way, by snapping up credit-default-swap protection on bonds issued by Japanese industrial companies such as JFE Holdings Inc. and Nippon Steel Corp., which have benefited from China’s construction boom. Hendry is convinced that Japanese banks are selling such protection too cheaply. Nippon Steel CDSs, for example, cost 57.25 basis points on Jan. 7, about a quarter of their high of 215 basis points on Feb. 17, 2009. (A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.)
“I see Japan as a nuclear bomb strapped onto the chest of the global economy,” Hendry says. “They’ve got uranium — which is, they sell credit protection: CDSs. I’m the other side of that.” If the Japanese corporate bond CDS spreads widen to equal or surpass their record highs of 2009, Hendry’s fund could rise by as much as 50 percent, he says.