Finance Evergrande dodges default for third time in a month

Evergrande dodges default for third time in a month

Cash-strapped developer China Evergrande has again averted a default at the last minute. Photo: AP
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Cash-strapped developer China Evergrande Group has averted a destabilising default at the last minute for the third time in the past month, with a source saying several bondholders had received overdue coupon payments.

Evergrande, the world’s most indebted developer, has been stumbling from deadline to deadline in recent weeks as it grapples with more than $US300 billion in liabilities, $US19 billion of which are international market bonds.

Chinese media outlet Cailianshe reported several bondholders have received interest payments of the three bond tranches that had a total of more than $US148 million due last month.

The payments were made at the end of a 30-day grace period that ended Wednesday, as was the case with two separate offshore coupon payments that were due in late September and for which the grace periods ended late last month.

A failure to pay would have resulted in a formal default by the company and triggered cross-default provisions for other Evergrande dollar bonds, exacerbating a debt crisis looming over the world’s second-largest economy that has rattled global markets.

“The near-term fix seems to be happening but there’s a long way to go before this issue gets sorted out. These are early days,” said the source with knowledge of the matter, referring to Evergrande and declining to be named without authorisation to talk to the media.

Evergrande, which is at the centre of a deepening liquidity squeeze in China’s $US5 trillion property sector, did not respond to Reuters request for comment on its latest bond coupon payment.

Although the developer managed to avoid a default again, woes in the property sector showed no signs of abating with a wall of debt coming due.

Evergrande has coupon payments totalling more than $US255 million due on December 28.

It has come under pressure from its other creditors at home and a stifling funding squeeze has cast a shadow over hundreds of its residential projects.

Investor focus is now also shifting to other cash-strapped developers which have a string of offshore payments coming due in the short term, including Kaisa Group.

Kaisa has the most offshore debt of any Chinese developer after Evergrande and pleaded for help from creditors this week.

It has coupon payments totalling over $US59 million due on Thursday and Friday.

Kaisa, which became China’s first property company to default on an overseas bond in 2015, has already missed payments on some wealth management products at home.

While the US Federal Reserve this week warned China’s troubled property sector could pose global risks, there were no clear indications whether Beijing will step in with a broader, national plan to tackle the issue.

Chinese regulators have in recent weeks, however, sought to reassure investors and homebuyers, saying risks were controllable and excessive credit tightening by banks was being corrected.

Regulators and government think tanks have also held meetings with developers in the past few weeks, and the market is expecting some easing in credit and housing policies to prevent a hard landing of the sector.

Those hopes and Evergrande’s payment sparked a relief rally across Chinese property shares, with an index of real estate A-shares surging nearly 8 per cent, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Mainland Properties Index trading up more than 3 per cent.

Shares of Evergrande listed in Hong Kong rose 5.5 per cent at noon.