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Country Garden’s entire offshore debt to be in default if Tuesday payment not made

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© FILE PHOTO: A view of the residential apartments in Country Garden’s Forest City development in Johor Bahru, Malaysia August 16, 2023. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

By Clare Jim and Xie Yu

HONG KONG () -Country Garden’s entire offshore debt will be deemed to be in default if China’s largest private property developer fails to make a $15 million coupon payment on Tuesday, the end of a 30-day grace period.Non-payment of this tranche is set to trigger cross defaults in other bonds as is standard in bond contracts.

Lack of payment – which is expected after Country Garden last week warned about its inability to meet offshore debt obligations – would make the firm the latest in scores of Chinese developers who have defaulted.

Country Garden has also missed other offshore payments in the past few weeks though those payments still have not seen their 30-day grace periods lapse.

“I think it’s a really high-profile and visceral reminder of just how bad things are for the developers, but the private-sector developers in particular,” said Chris Beddor, deputy director of China Research at Gavekal Dragonomics.

One Country Garden bondholder, who declined to be identified, said there had been no payment as of noon on Tuesday.

Country Garden declined to comment.

With nearly $11 billion of offshore bonds and $6 billion of offshore loans, a default by Country Garden would set the stage for one of China’s biggest corporate debt restructurings.

In a fresh reminder of just how nervous investors have become about the crisis in the sector, another major property developer Gemdale saw its stocks and bonds plunge on Tuesday after the resignation of its chairman.

Gemdale said the resignation was due to health reasons but investors, spooked by the sector’s broader problems, were taking no chances and rushed to sell its securities, analysts said.

Three of its bonds lost more than a fifth of their value before their trade was suspended and its stock tumbled 9%.

WIDESPREAD DEFAULTS

So far, developers accounting for 40% of Chinese home sales have defaulted on their debt obligations since 2021, according to JPMorgan. CreditSights figures show Chinese developers have defaulted on more than $114.6 billion of $175 billion in dollar bonds outstanding since 2021.

As more developers moved towards restructuring debt, their offshore creditors are expected to be offered less favourable terms amid a worsening outlook for the country’s real estate sector.

Country Garden has appointed Houlihan Lokey (NYSE:), China International Capital Corporation (CICC) and law firm Sidley Austin as advisers to examine its capital structure and liquidity position and formulate a ‘holistic’ solution.

Last week, printed circuit board maker Kingboard Holdings became one of the first known listed companies to take legal action against Country Garden when a unit, which is owed HK$1.6 billion ($204 million), issued a statutory demand seeking repayment.

China has rolled out a flurry of support measures in recent months to revive its property sector. The sector, which accounts for a quarter of the economy, has been in crisis since policymakers began cracking down on the industry’s debt levels in 2021.

Analysts have said that the new measures are not enough to turn around the sector any time soon but industry data out this week will be closely watched to gauge how much effect the steps have had so far.

Property sales by floor area are due out on Wednesday and nationwide prices of new homes for September will be released on Thursday.

($1 = 7.8203 Hong Kong dollars)

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