By Laura He, CNN Business
This is the critical moment for the Chinese group Evergrande, which is heavily in debt.
The sprawling Chinese real estate The conglomerate faces a critical test on Thursday: will it be able to meet its obligations to bondholders, or will it come close to default?
Evergrande is due to pay $ 83.5 million in interest on a dollar-denominated bond on Thursday, according to data from Refinitiv. It is not yet known whether the company will make this payment. Investors have already been rocked by the risk of one of China’s biggest developers collapsing, sending shock waves through the world’s second-largest economy.
The company is also expected to pay interest on a yuan bond due on the same day, although it has already reached an agreement with bondholders on that payment, according to an Evergrande stock file on Wednesday.
Following the announcement, Evergrande stock rebounded to 32% on Thursday, as the Hong Kong market reopened after a public holiday. The larger Hang Seng index rose nearly 2%, boosted by real estate and financial stocks.
âThe focus is now on its dollar bond interest payment due today after resolving its domestic bond payment,â Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist for IG Group, said in a research report Thursday.
Markets will wait for a new resolution on its subsequent bond payments in order to have “greater conviction on mitigating contagion risks,” he said.
Chinese Estates, Evergrande’s second-largest shareholder and a long-time business ally of the company, said in a stock exchange document on Thursday that it had already sold HK $ 246.5 million of Evergrande shares in recent years. weeks. The company can also sell the remaining shares, he added. Chinese estates jumped nearly 7% in Hong Kong.
Even if Evergrande does not payment of $ 83.5 million immediately, he may still have time. The company has a 30-day grace period before “officially going default,” wrote Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia-Pacific in Oanda, in a research note this week.
But any missed deadline will fuel investor anxiety about the viability of the business.
Evergrande is stumbling under $ 300 billion in debt, largely held by Chinese financial institutions, retail investors, home buyers and its suppliers in the construction, materials and design industries. Foreign investors also hold part of its debt. In recent weeks, the company has twice warned investors that it could default if it is not able to raise funds quickly.
It is not yet clear whether the company will actually default or whether Beijing will step in and orchestrate some type of restructuring to contain the fallout on China’s financial system and economy as a whole.
Will Beijing bail out Evergrande?
Real estate represents more than 7% of the Chinese economy, and many analysts believe the Chinese government will eventually intervene to some extent, although a full bailout is unlikely.
“We don’t expect government actions to help Evergrande unless systemic stability is threatened,” S&P Global Ratings analysts said in a research report earlier this week. âA government bailout would undermine the campaign to bring greater financial discipline to the real estate industry. “
Instead of a bailout, analysts expected the government to focus on steering Evergrande through an orderly process of debt restructuring or bankruptcy, while facilitating negotiations and funding. to ensure that small investors and home buyers are protected âas much as possibleâ.
Only if the Evergrande contagion came to would cause other big developers to fail, would the government intervene directly, they added. But they believe that the only blow to the financial system by Evergrande will always be “manageable.”
Macquarie Group economists, meanwhile, also don’t think a âbig bailoutâ of Evergrande is likely.
âThe government would ensure that pre-sold apartments are built and delivered to homebuyers,â they said, while adding that shareholders and lenders could âsuffer a big lossâ.
However, Beijing will be careful to avoid any escalation in protests recently staged by investors and apartment owners, who have gathered outside Evergrande’s headquarters in Shenzhen to demand their repayment.
Evergrande’s troubles have been brewing for a while. In recent years, debts have exploded as she borrowed to finance her various activities, from housing and electric vehicles to sports and theme parks. Then, in August 2020, Beijing began to curb excessive borrowing in the real estate sector in order to prevent the housing market from overheating and restraining debt growth.
In recent weeks, Evergrande’s liquidity crisis has intensified, causing the company’s stocks and bonds to fall further.
The need to “soften the blow” for small investors will likely be at the center of any restructuring of Evergrande, according to Robert Carnell, head of research for Asia-Pacific at ING Economics.
He cited Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent emphasis on âcommon prosperityâ and the need to redistribute wealth in the interest of âsocial equityâ. This pledge has influenced Beijing’s sweeping crackdown on technology, finance, education and other sectors, accusing the private sector of being the source of financial risks and of exacerbating corruption and inequality. .
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