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Evergrande’s debt crisis is wreaking havoc on Hong Kong’s stock market

<i>VIVIAN LIN/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Shares of Evergrande Group plummeted 10% in Hong Kong on Monday
AFP via Getty Images
Shares of Evergrande Group plummeted 10% in Hong Kong on Monday

By Laura He, CNN Business

Evergrande’s debt crisis is continuing to unsettle investors in Asia and raising concerns about whether a potential default by the troubled Chinese conglomerate could spill over to other parts of the economy.

Shares of Evergrande Group plummeted 10% in Hong Kong on Monday, hitting just 2.28 Hong Kong dollars ($0.29) per share. The stock has shed 84% so far this year, plunging below its 2009 IPO price of 3.5 Hong Kong dollars ($0.45).

The Hang Seng Index on Monday dropped 3.3%, suffering its worst decline in nearly two months, as Chinese banks, insurers and other real estate companies were slammed.

Evergrande is facing a few critical deadlines this week. It was supposed to repay interest on some bank loans on Monday, according to Bloomberg. The news outlet recently reported that Chinese authorities have told major banks that they won’t receive those payments.

Evergrande did not immediately respond to a request from CNN Business for comment about those payments.

And interest payments totaling more than $100 million are due later this week on two of the company’s bonds, according to data provider Refinitiv.

But it’s not clear how much — if any — of those debt obligations Evergrande will be able to meet. The group is China’s most indebted developer, with more than $300 billion worth of liabilities. Over the last few weeks, it’s warned investors of cash flow issues, saying that it could default if it’s unable to raise money quickly.

Evergrande’s debt burden is so large that analysts have warned that risks could spread throughout China. The company holds about 6.5% of the total debt held by China’s property sector, according to an estimate by UBS.

The Hang Seng Property Index, which tracks major developers listed in the city, sank 6.7%, hitting its lowest level since May 2016. The chill might have been exacerbated by a Reuters report late Friday afternoon, which cited anonymous sources as saying that Beijing has called on Hong Kong’s powerful property tycoons to pour resources and influence into backing Beijing’s interests.

Hong Kong developers New World Development and Chinese Estates Holdings, well known as Evergrande’s long-time allies that often supported the company by buying its bonds or part of its stakes, fell 12.3% and 8.5%, respectively. Another Chinese property developer, Country Garden, lost more than 6%.

The sell-off spread to shares of Chinese banks and insurance companies. Ping An Insurance — the country’s largest insurer and one of its biggest property investors — slid nearly 6% on Monday to its lowest level since 2017. The heavy losses came even though Ping An said Friday that the company has “zero exposure” to Evergrande, while risks to its other property investments were “controllable,” according to Chinese state media.

Mainland Chinese stock and bond markets were shut Monday for a public holiday and will reopen on Wednesday.

Goldman Sachs analysts warned of “rising risks” from the Chinese property market.

“Concerns over Evergrande are rising and signs of financing difficulties spreading to other developers are emerging,” they said in a research report published Sunday night. The Chinese government needs to “carefully manage” Evergrande’s potential default or restructuring, while delivering a clear message to help “shore up confidence and to stop the spillover effect,” they said.

Evergrande has about 200,000 employees, raked in more than $110 billion in sales last year and has more than 1,300 developments, according to the company. Its huge liabilities are widely held by financial institutions, retail investors, homebuyers and suppliers in the construction, materials and design industries.

Trouble at the heavily indebted property giant has been brewing for the past year. In August 2020, Beijing began containing the property sector’s excessive borrowing in an attempt to prevent the housing market from overheating and to curb debt growth.

Evergrade’s liquidity crisis has intensified in recent weeks, triggering a further plunge in the company’s stocks and bonds.

Early last week, the Chinese media outlet Caixin reported that several hundred people who had invested in an Evergrande wealth management product surrounded the company’s Shenzhen headquarters, demanding their money back.

They also questioned a senior Evergrande executive, who they claimed had redeemed his investment several months ago, suggesting that he had known the extent of the company’s problems before telling investors.

The company on Friday warned that six of its executives could face “severe punishments” for cashing out early on the wealth management product. On Saturday, the company said it would start repaying its wealth management investors with real estate.

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