China developer Country Garden sees record profit slump

China’s largest developer Country Garden Holdings reported a record 96 percent on-year drop in its first-half earnings Tuesday, in the latest grim illustration of the economic chaos coursing through the country’s property sector.

Its earnings plunged to 612 million yuan ($88 million) as China’s property market has “slid rapidly into severe depression”, the company said in a report.

It was the company’s biggest recorded fall since its Hong Kong listing in 2007.

The Foshan-based firm reported that revenue tumbled 31 percent to 162 billion yuan amid a “harsh business environment in which only the fittest can survive”.

Core net profit, which reflects adjustments such as re-evaluated properties, came in at 4.9 billion yuan, down 68 percent year on year.

Country Garden attributed the lacklustre results to the market’s weakening expectations, sluggish demand and a fall in property prices — though it still tried to paint a rosy picture of pending recovery.

“There are often hopes in crises. China’s economy has proven resilient and its strong fundamentals for long-term development remain intact,” the company said.

The company on Tuesday also reported a record-low gross margin of 10.6 percent while the ratio of liabilities to assets climbed to 74 percent.

Hong Kong-listed shares in Country Garden have fallen 64 percent this year.

The biggest names in China’s real estate sector are still reeling from Beijing’s crackdown on excessive debt and rampant speculation, and Country Garden earlier this month predicted that its earnings would plummet.

Focusing on the lower end of the real estate market and counting migrant workers as a main customer base, the developer is more vulnerable to soft market demand, Bloomberg News reported.

Tuesday’s results could be a “stumbling block to the developer’s fundraising via equity and debt” and its focus on low-tier cities might extend its gross-margin slump, according to Bloomberg Intelligence real estate analyst Kristy Hung.

Earlier this month, Fitch Ratings downgraded the homebuilder and said its liquidity buffer was “under pressure” due to declining sales, working capital commitments and worsening capital market conditions.

Moody’s Investors Service in June also lowered the investment grade of Country Garden, citing “declining property sales and deteriorating financial metrics” as well as less secure access to funding. — Agence France-Presse