China property shares slump as planned U.S. rate hike adds to woes


HONG KONG: China Evergrande Group shares slumped on Thursday after the developer's thinly detailed roadmap for restructuring left investors dissatisfied and its indebted peers also fell on concerns higher interest rates would raise financing costs.

Regulatory curbs on borrowing have driven China's property sector into crisis, highlighted by Evergrande, the world's most indebted property firm. The contagion has engulfed other Chinese developers, roiled global financial markets in the past year and contributed to a slump in China's property market, which accounts for a quarter of its economy.

Evergrande closed 3.4% lower at HK$1.71 ($0.2195) on Thursday, narrowing from a 9.6% loss in early trading, on investor scepticism in the developer's plan to have a preliminary restructuring proposal in place in six months.

The Hang Seng Mainland Properties Index shed 2.6%, while the benchmark Hang Seng Index dropped 2%.

The U.S. Federal Reserve said on Wednesday it is likely to hike interest rates in March and reaffirmed plans to end its bond purchases.

"Chinese real estate companies are highly leveraged, with a lot of overseas debt, so U.S. Fed signalling large room for rate hikes will put even more pressure on their financing," said Alvin Cheung, associate director of Prudential Brokerage Ltd.

The long-awaited communication between Evergrande and creditors occurred as Beijing plans to tighten control over the property developer, while taking measures to stabilise China's property sector.

Evergrande's assets are expected to be taken over by state-owned firms in a restructuring led by the Guangdong provincial government, where Evergrande is based, Reuters has reported.

Those plans appears to be in place with Bloomberg, citing sources familiar with the matter, reporting on Thursday that the provincial government submitted a proposal to Beijing to sell most of Evergrande's assets except for its separately listed property management and electric vehicle units .

A group led by China Cinda Asset Management Co, a state-owned bad debt manager and major Evergrande creditor, would take over any unsold property assets, the Bloomberg report said.

The Guangdong provincial government did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Evergrande set up a risk management committee last month, mostly comprising senior officials from state entities including Cinda, and earlier this week it named Liang Senlin, chairman of China Cinda (HK) Holdings Company, a unit of Cinda, as a new board member.

CREDITORS CALL Evergrande's stock slump on Thursday came after the company told investors in a call late on Wednesday that it hoped to work with them to achieve a risk management solution, and it would treat all categories of creditors "fairly and follow international practice". The company also urged creditors not to take any "aggressive legal actions." But some bondholders were disappointed by the 25-minute call, which included prepared answers to questions, saying it failed to give any insight on Evergrande's plans.

Adding to the pressure on Evergrande, the Financial Times said on Thursday that asset manager Oaktree Capital, who is a lender to Evergrande to develop a vast land plot in Hong Kong, moved this week to seize control of the asset by appointing a receiver after Evergrande defaulted on the loan.

The move could cause Evergrande's offshore debt restructuring plan to fail as the 2.2-million-square-foot (204,000-square-meter) luxury housing development was a crucial piece of collateral, the report said.

Evergrande has liabilities of $300 billion including nearly $20 billion of international bonds all deemed to be in default after a run of missed payments late last year.

Amid Evergrande's plunge, other Chinese property companies suffered losses as well.

Shares of Times China Holdings plunged 26.8% to HK$3, after the Guangzhou-based developer said it would raise HK$400.2 million ($51.38 million) by placing shares at HK$3.4 apiece, a 17.1% discount to Wednesday closing price.

The company sold 117.7 million shares, representing 5.6% of its enlarged capital, for debt repayment and working capital, it said in a filing.

Shenzhen-based Logan Group also said on Thursday it raised HK$1.95 billion through 6.95% equity-linked securities due August 2026 to refinance debt.

Its shares fell 15.7%. - Reuters

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