HONG KONG: Chinese property giant Evergrande is due to present its restructuring plans in a Hong Kong court Monday, a deadline imposed by a judge for the heavily indebted company to avoid liquidation.
Once China’s biggest real estate developer, Evergrande defaulted in 2021 and has reported more than US$300 billion in liabilities, becoming a symbol of China’s years-long property crisis which sparked fears of a wider economic slowdown.
Creditors last year filed a winding-up petition in Hong Kong against China Evergrande Group – which would begin the process of liquidation – but the case has dragged on while parties tried to broker a deal out of court.
Judge Linda Chan in October said Evergrande would get “one last adjournment” until Dec 4 to work out a concrete restructuring plan or else she would appoint independent liquidators from accounting firm KPMG.
In March, the property behemoth offered creditors a choice to swap their debt into new notes issued by the company and equities in two subsidiaries, Evergrande Property Services Group and Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group.
But negotiations stalled in September when company chair Xu Jiayin was “subject to mandatory measures” from Chinese authorities on suspicion of “crimes”.
The company said the same month that it could not issue new debt because its subsidiary in China, Hengda Real Estate Group, was being investigated.
In the October court hearing, Evergrande’s lawyers said the restructuring would focus on “monetising” the two Hong Kong-listed subsidiaries.
Evergrande estimated it had debts of US$328 billion at the end of June.
China’s construction and property sector used to account for around a quarter of its GDP and thrived for decades as demand soared.
But the debt accrued by its biggest players was deemed by Beijing an unacceptable risk for China’s financial system and overall economic health.
Authorities have gradually tightened developers’ access to credit since 2020, and a wave of defaults has followed.
Hong Kong has a common law legal system that is distinct from mainland China, and is favoured by some offshore creditors as a venue to seek the liquidation of failing Chinese builders.
It remains unclear if a winding-up order issued by a Hong Kong court can or will be enforced in the mainland.