China Evergrande says hiring more advisers to help deal with debt

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China Evergrande says hiring more advisers to help deal with debt
© Reuters/ALY SONG FILE PHOTO: Headquarters of China Evergrande Group in Shenzhen

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SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (Reuters) -China Evergrande Group said on Friday that it was hiring more financial and legal advisers to help it with demands from creditors, after a key group of its international creditors threatened to take legal action if it did not show more urgency to resolve a default.

Evergrande is the world’s most-indebted property company, with more than $300 billion in total liabilities, which include nearly $20 billion of international bonds all deemed to be in default after a run of missed payments late last year.

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Its rocky financial situation has roiled other Chinese property developers over the past year and exacerbated a funding squeeze in the sector. But in one positive sign, larger rival Country Garden surprised the market on Friday with a new issue of $500.2 million convertible bonds, after a similar attempt failed last week.

China Evergrande says hiring more advisers to help deal with debt
© Reuters/ALY SONG FILE PHOTO: Buildings developed by China Evergrande Group on the manmade Ocean Flower Island in Danzhou

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In a filing to the stock exchange, Evergrande said it was proposing to engage China International Capital Corp Ltd and BOCI Asia Ltd as financial advisers, and Zhong Lun Law Firm LLP as legal adviser.

The move came one day after an offshore creditor group, represented by law firm Kirkland & Ellis and investment bank Moelis, said it was ready to take “all necessary actions” to defend members’ rights after a lack of engagement by the firm at the heart of China’s property crisis.

The creditor group said in a statement on Thursday Evergrande has disregarded its offshore creditors and the legal rights of its creditors, and it had to “seriously consider” enforcement action.

Shares of Evergrande fell over 3% in Asia on Friday. Its April 2023 dollar bond traded at 12.551 cents on the dollar, data by Duration Finance showed, bouncing after the news though still softer than overnight.

IS PROPERTY SENTIMENT TURNING?

Stocks and bonds of Chinese property developers have gained this week on hopes a slew of recent government measures would help ease the sector’s funding squeeze and reverse a slump in construction, a key economic growth driver.

Country Garden, China’s top property developer by sales, said it would issue HK$3.9 billion of convertible bonds for refinancing debt that will become due within one year.

The bonds due July 2026 carry 4.95% interest and have the initial conversion price of HK$8.10 per share. At full conversion, the shares would represent 2% of the enlarged capital.

Shares of Country Garden dropped nearly 6% to HK$6.55 in the morning session after the news, while its Jan 2023 international bond rose to 97.021, up from 92.787 overnight.

The new issue follows a report that the developer failed to find appetite for a potential $300 million convertible bond last Wednesday. IFR reported Country Garden tested the waters for a three-year put-two deal which would carry a yield-to-maturity of 4.75% and a conversion premium of 25%.

Beijing unexpectedly cut borrowing costs on its medium-term loans on Monday for the first time since April 2020 to ease pressure on the cooling economy. On Thursday it cut its benchmark lending rates for corporate and household loans for a second straight month, and also lowered its mortgage lending benchmark rate.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that policymakers were also drafting nationwide rules to make it easier for developers to access funds from sales still held in escrow accounts, which would improve their short-term liquidity and buy time to repay debts.

($1 = 7.7878 Hong Kong dollars)

(Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Christopher Cushing and Kim Coghill)

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