China Evergrande braces for payment deadline after doubting availability of funds

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A traffic light is seen near the headquarters of China Evergrande Group in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China September 26, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song

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HONG KONG, Dec 6 (Reuters) – After lurching from deadline to deadline, China Evergrande Group (3333.HK) is again on the brink of default, with pessimistic comments from the property developer raising expectations of direct state involvement and a managed debt restructuring.

Having made three 11th-hour coupon payments in the past two months, Evergrande will again face the end of a 30-day grace period on Monday, with dues this time at $82.5 million.

But a statement late on Friday saying creditors had demanded $260 million and that it could not guarantee enough funds for coupon repayment prompted authorities to summon its chairman – and wiped an eighth off its stock’s market value on Monday.

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Evergrande was once China’s top-selling developer but is now grappling with more than $300 billion in liabilities, meaning a collapse could ripple through the property sector and beyond.

Friday’s statement was followed by one from authorities in its home province of Guangdong, saying they would send a working group to Evergrande at the developer’s request to oversee risk management, strengthen internal control and maintain operations.

The central bank, banking and insurance regulator and securities regulator also released statements, saying risk to the broader property sector could be contained.

Short-term risk from a single real estate firm will not undermine market funding in the medium or long term, said the People’s Bank of China. Housing sales, land purchases and financing “have already returned to normal in China”, it said.

Analysts said authorities’ concerted effort signalled Evergrande has likely already entered a managed debt-asset restructuring process to reduce systemic risk.

Morgan Stanley in a report said such a process would involve coordination between authorities to maintain normal operation of property projects, and negotiation with onshore creditors to ensure financing for projects’ development and completion.

Regulators would also likely facilitate debt restructuring discussion with offshore creditors after business operations start to stabilise, the U.S. investment bank said.

Evergrande’s November 2022 bond – one of two bonds that could go into default on non-payment on Monday – was trading on Monday at the distressed price of 20.787 U.S. cents on the dollar, compared with 20.083 cents at the end of Friday.

Its share price fell more than 12% to HK$1.98 ($0.2540), its lowest since May 2010.

($1 = 7.7965 Hong Kong dollars)

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Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Christopher Cushing

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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