By Laura He, CNN Business
For the second time this month, China’s most indebted developer Evergrande has reportedly managed to avoid default at the last minute.
The debt-stricken firm paid interest on a dollar-denominated bond that was due in late September, just as a 30-day grace period expired, according to the New York Times and Bloomberg. Each publication cited unnamed sources.
CNN Business could not independently verify that the payment had been made, and Evergrande did not immediately respond to a request fro comment. The interest due was worth $47.5 million for a bond that expires in March 2024, according to data from Eikon Refinitiv.
Friday’s reports come a week after Evergrande reportedly paid $83.5 million worth of overdue interest on a dollar bond — also shortly before an expiring grace period.
It’s not clear where Evergrande is getting the money to pay these debts. But some media have suggested that company Chairman Xu Jiayin is being pressured to reach into his own pockets to keep the company afloat.
Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that Chinese authorities have told Xu to use his personal wealth to pay the company’s debts.
Local media in Hong Kong has also reported, citing information from a local land registry, that Xu is using a mansion in the city as collateral to secure bank loans.
CNN Business could not independently verify those reports. But that property is located in an incredibly expensive Hong Kong neighborhood. Neighboring houses are priced at around 700 million Hong Kong dollars ($90 million).
Evergrande’s mainland Chinese division, Guangzhou Kailong Real Estate, also dumped six million shares, worth 15.48 million yuan ($2.4 million), in a Shenzhen-listed development group called China Calxon Group on Tuesday, according to a stock exchange filing from that company. Evergrande still owns about a fifth of that company through Guangzhou Kailong.
Evergrande still holds a massive amount of debt, though. Its total liabilities stand somewhere around $300 billion. And the company still has $148 million worth of unpaid interest that was due last month.
The company also has a few hundred million dollars worth of payments this year, including a $14.25 milion interest payment on a dollar bond that is due tomorrow, according to Eikon Refinitiv.
Shares in Evergrande fell 3% in Hong Kong on Friday.
A default by Evergrande would likely trigger cross defaults and send shockwaves through other parts of the Chinese economy.
Fears over contagion from Evergrande have unsettled global investors in recent months, triggering stock sell-offs in Hong Kong, New York, and London.
Yields on offshore bonds issued by Chinese companies have also surged, making it more difficult for those firms to raise money.
And several smaller Chinese developers have defaulted on their overseas debts in recent weeks, including Shenzhen-based Fantasia Holdings and Beijing-based Modern Land.
“Funding access for Chinese property developers has tightened … significantly and rapidly in recent weeks, as banks and bond investors have become skittish about the property sector,” analysts from Moody’s wrote in a Thursday report.
They added that property sales have also declined because of constrained developer spending and concerns from homebuyers over whether properties will be completed.
Beijing appears to be taking notice of the risks of not meeting overseas debt obligations.
On Tuesday, two major economic regulators called on companies “in key industries” to redeem the principal and interest on their overseas bonds. The agencies said that they want companies to settle foreign debt to protect their own reputations, as well as the “overall order of the market.”
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