China property M&A deals pick up in relief for developers


n recent days, stressed property firms Agile Group Holdings Ltd and Shimao Group Holdings Ltd have announced sales of stakes in companies to state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to raise cash.

BEIJING: China’s efforts to spur asset sales by cash-strapped developers are starting to gain momentum with a flurry of deals involving state-run rivals, potentially easing the industry’s debt crisis.

In recent days, stressed property firms Agile Group Holdings Ltd and Shimao Group Holdings Ltd have announced sales of stakes in companies to state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to raise cash. Regional lender Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Co priced a bond to help fund loans for mergers and acquisitions (M&As) in the sector, and at least two state-owned developers announced plans to issue such M&A notes.

Chinese regulators see asset sales as a key step to easing the liquidity crisis that’s afflicting the real estate industry and impeding an economic recovery. Authorities in December eased limits on borrowing by major property firms used to fund M&A, part of efforts to engineer a soft landing for the sector after years of debt-fuelled expansion.

The latest deals spurred optimism among bond and stock investors. A Bloomberg Intelligence index of Chinese developer stocks rose for a fifth day yesterday, taking gains over that period to as much as 12%, on course for the most in 18 months.

Chinese high-yield dollar bonds, which are dominated by builders, rose as much as two cents on the dollar, according to credit traders.

Agile Group announced the sale of its stake in a joint venture for 1.84 billion yuan (US$291mil or RM1.22bil) yesterday. The purchaser is Guangdong Zhonghai Property, an indirect wholly owned unit of state-run China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd, one of the country’s largest developers.

“Potential liquidity support from state developers may ease investors’ concerns over its solvency,” Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Kristy Hung and Patrick Wong wrote in a note. Agile was downgraded deeper into junk by global credit rating companies last week.

Asset purchases may help state builders gain more market share from their ailing private competitors. In 2021, 40% of the top 10 developers’ gross contracted sales were generated by central SOEs, up from 20% market share in 2010, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

Shimao Group said on Friday it agreed to sell property management unit Shanghai Shimao Development Co for 1.06 billion yuan (RM701mil). The buyer is Shanghai Jiushi, which mainly operates state-owned assets authorised by the Shanghai government. In addition, Shimao is in talks with China Overseas Land & Investment to sell its stake in a Guangzhou project, local media outlet Cailian reported.

Shares of Agile Group jumped as much as 8.1% in Hong Kong, while Shimao climbed 6.8%. Shimao’s 4.75% 2022 note rose five US cents (RM0.21) to 60.8 US cents (RM2.55), and Agile’s 5.5% 2026 note gained 1.6 US cents (RM0.067) to 32.7 US cents (RM1.37), according to Bloomberg-compiled data. Sunac China Holdings Ltd sold stakes in a few projects to state-owned investors including Guangdong-based Huafa Group, Cailian reported last week.

Meanwhile, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank priced a three-year, 30 billion yuan (RM19.86bil) bond at 2.69% on Friday, with five billion yuan (RM3.31bil) of the proceeds to be used for funding M&A in China’s property industry, the lender said. The bond was the first to be issued by a financial institution for M&A deals in the real estate development sector, the bank said Saturday in a WeChat statement.

State-owned China Merchants Shekou Industrial Zone Holdings Co is selling as much as 1.29 billion yuan (RM854mil) of M&A bonds on China’s interbank bond market yesterday and today. C&D Real Estate Corp aims to raise up to one billion yuan (RM661.8mil) from such notes this week. — Bloomberg

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