Embattled property giant Evergrande is planning what could become China’s biggest ever debt restructuring, wrapping in all its offshore obligations, reports said, as it faced the prospect Tuesday of defaulting on a key payment.
The Chinese government, which sparked the crisis when it launched a drive last year to curb excessive debt among Evergrande and other real estate firms, is poised to take a leading role in the restructure, analysts told AFP.
Evergrande, with a debt pile of over US$300 billion, is the most prominent firm to have buckled under the crackdown, but others have also suffered.
The real estate industry is a top growth driver for the world’s second biggest economy and the debt crisis has raised fears of a spillover into other key sectors.
Grace periods for interest payments on two Evergrande notes worth US$82.5 million were scheduled to end Monday – and if not met would lead to the company’s first default.
After Evergrande said on Friday it may not be able to meet its financial obligations, the government summoned the company’s founder and announced several moves that have given the clearest picture yet of Beijing’s plans to end the crisis.
“Evergrande’s disclosures and the ensuing government statements were well coordinated, pointing to formal beginning of Evergrande’s debt restructuring,” Nomura’s chief China economist Lu Ting said in a note.
He added the regulators’ comments suggested “global investors should take responsibility for their own decisions to invest in Evergrande’s dollar bonds and the Chinese government will not provide a hard guarantee to indebted companies like Evergrande.”
Evergrande announced Monday a new seven-strong “risk management committee” that would involve only two executives from the company, with others including officials from state entities.
Guangdong’s provincial government is also sending a working team to the company, which analysts at Jefferies said indicated a “potential takeover of Evergrande”.
The working group is a clear sign of increased government control in the future of Evergrande, agreed Chen Long, partner at research firm Plenum.
“(Founder) Hui Ka Yan actually will not be making the final decisions,” he told AFP.
“From an operational perspective… that working group will be in charge and will be making the most important decisions.”
Bloomberg News reported that Evergrande was planning to include all its offshore public bonds and private debt obligations in a restructuring, citing people familiar with the matter.
The restructuring – which has yet to start – could cover public bonds sold by Evergrande and unit Scenery Journey, as well as US$260 million of notes issued by joint venture Jumbo Fortune Enterprises, Bloomberg said.
There have been signs the government is starting to ease property curbs.
The central bank said Monday it would cut the reserve requirement ratio by 0.5% points for most banks effective Dec 15, reducing the amount of cash banks must hold in reserve and injecting 1.2 trillion yuan ($188 billion) into the economy.
Top leaders also agreed to “promote the construction of affordable housing, support the commercial housing market and better meet the reasonable housing needs of buyers”, state news agency Xinhua said.