China property tycoon faces debt woes

Chen Hongtian Photographer: Xiaomei Chen/South China Morning Post/Getty Images , Photographer: South China Morning Post/South China Morning Post

HONG KONG: A Chinese tycoon who had snapped up mansions and offices in Hong Kong and London faces demands from banks to repay more than US$200mil of loans for which he and his family had provided personal guarantees, in a sign of further liquidity problems for the businessman and his property-investment company.

Nanyang Commercial Bank Ltd has demanded payment from Chen Hongtian, chairman of Hong Kong-based investment company Cheung Kei Group, and his wife, Chen Li Ni Yao, on five overdue term-loan facilities totalling HK$799mil, plus default interest, according to a writ dated April 17.

Each has provided personal guarantees for the loans and has agreed to be liable independently to pay for all sums guaranteed, according to the writ. The term loans dated 2017 all have a five-year tenor and were outstanding as of March 8.

Plagued by what he has called “short-term liquidity issues” at Cheung Kei, which acquires and operates real estate assets globally, Chen has lost at least US$1.4bil worth of properties to creditors, both in Hong Kong and London, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Among these properties, creditors have put up for sale an US$892mil office tower in Hong Kong’s Hung Hom area and two buildings at London’s Canary Wharf.

The latest lawsuit from Nanyang Commercial Bank followed a separate demand by United Overseas Bank Ltd last month seeking payment of loan principal and unpaid interest, plus default interest, totalling HK$848mil.

Chen, his wife and his son had made a similar personal guarantee for that loan. The loan was due and payable as of March 21.

Cheung Kei Group didn’t respond to a Bloomberg email requesting comment and phone calls to the company’s Hong Kong office went unanswered.

Representatives from Nanyang Commercial Bank and United Overseas Bank didn’t respond to Bloomberg’s email inquiries.

An ongoing downturn in office markets worldwide has weighed further on properties previously owned by Cheung Kei Group. Sales plans for 5 Churchill Place, an investment at Canary Wharf, have been shelved. — Bloomberg

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