03:18 - Source: CNNBusiness
Covid and the real estate crisis weigh on China's economy
Hong Kong CNN Business  — 

Evergrande is still trying to appease growing anger among its offshore creditors, who have threatened to take legal action over the embattled Chinese developer’s plans to restructure the business.

The company is now asking international bondholders to give it “more time” to work on a restructuring plan, according to a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange this week.

Given the size of Evergrande, the number of its stakeholders and the “complexity of the situation,” the company “will need more time to fully consider, evaluate and assess comprehensively the number of potential solutions before it can responsibly further engage in substantive negotiations with offshore creditors,” it wrote in the filing.

In a separate statement on Monday, Evergrande asked its offshore creditors to “exhibit patience by refraining from taking aggressive legal actions.” Such measures, it added, could result in a “destructive outcome.”

This week is the second time Evergrande has tried to placate concerns among overseas creditors, who last Thursday said they had to “seriously consider enforcement actions” because the company failed to engage substantially with them about reorganizing operations.

A group of bondholders — represented by law firm Kirkland & Ellis and investment bank Moelis & Co (MC) — said at the time that the company’s behavior “tarnishes offshore investors’ views” about expecting fair treatment when investing in Chinese companies. They added that they were “prepared to take all necessary actions to vehemently defend its legal rights and protect its legitimate interests.”

At that time, Evergrande announced it would hire more financial and legal advisers to help “follow up” with demands from creditors.

The real estate developer is one of China’s largest and it’s still reeling under more than $300 billion of total liabilities, including about $19 billion outstanding offshore bonds held by international asset managers and private banks on behalf of their clients.

Evergrande has been scrambling for months to raise cash to repay lenders, and the company’s chairman Xu Jiayin has been reportedly selling off personal assets to prop up its finances.

But time seemed to run out for the company last month, when Fitch Ratings declared that Evergrande had defaulted on its debt — a downgrade that the ratings agency said reflected the company’s inability to pay interest due that month on two dollar-denominated bonds.

There’s also evidence that the Chinese government is guiding Evergrande through a restructuring of its debt and sprawling business operations. The company set up a risk management committee last month that is staffed by officials from state-owned enterprises in Guangdong, where Evergrande is based, along with an executive from a major bad debt management firm owned by the central government.

Analysts have been long concerned that a collapse by Evergrande could trigger wider risks for China’s property market, hurting homeowners and the broader financial system. Real estate and related industries account for as much as 30% of the country’s GDP.

Chinese policymakers have also made it clear that protecting domestic homeowners is a priority, as they want to ensure apartments are delivered to customers, many of whom had already paid for properties before they were completed. Last month, Wang Menghui — the Minister of China’s Housing and Urban-Rural Development — told the state broadcaster that enduring the delivery of home projects and protecting people’s livelihoods were among the government’s main goals this year in tackling risks to the real estate sector.

Evergrande has also made deals with domestic creditors to avoid a formal default on its onshore bond. Earlier this month, it obtained investor approval to delay payments on a 4.5 billion yuan ($707 million) bond.

Separately, Shimao Group — another major developer — announced late Monday that it had sold its stake in an asset for 1.84 billion yuan ($291 million) to reduce its debt. It’s the latest in a string of efforts by the cash-strapped firm to dispose of assets, including a move last week to sell some commercial land in Shanghai for 1.06 billion yuan ($167 million).