Troubled Chinese property giant Evergrande unveiled on Wednesday a long-awaited restructuring proposal for its massive debts, as it fights off a winding-up court petition brought by creditors in Hong Kong.
Once the country’s largest real estate company, Evergrande has been strangled by liabilities estimated in 2021 at more than $300 billion and is on the verge of bankruptcy.
Creditors were offered choices to swap their debt into new notes issued by the company and equities in two subsidiaries, Evergrande Property Services Group and Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group, according to the term sheets made public in a Hong Kong exchange filing.
The company has come to embody a broader crisis in China’s property sector, which accounts for around a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product and has faced a crackdown from authorities since 2020 after rampant borrowing and pricing speculation.
The case in Hong Kong centres around roughly HK$862.5 million (US$110 million) in debts owed to an investment group in the city, and the new restructuring proposal could chart a plan for the company’s roughly $22.7 billion in offshore liabilities.
The execution of the term sheets published late on Wednesday was “a substantial positive milestone” to achieve restructuring, which Evergrande said will “facilitate the company’s efforts to resume operations and resolve issues onshore.”
In the exchange filing, Evergrande said additional financing of up to $44 billion is required over the next three years to “ensure delivery of properties” and “resume work and production”.
The next hearing in the Hong Kong winding-up case is scheduled for July 31, with Evergrande telling the court on Monday that it foresees October 1 as the last date by which its restructuring plan would take effect.
The terms reached between Evergrande and the group of creditors in Hong Kong are likely to be adopted by other offshore creditors, according to Neil McDonald, a partner at Kirkland and Ellis LLP, an American law firm that is advising the petitioners.
A more formal restructuring support agreement for all creditors is expected to be ready by the end of March, with creditors voting for adoption and the court’s approval planned in May and July respectively.
At a July hearing, Evergrande is also expected to submit restructuring proposals in the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands to address other offshore liabilities, McDonald said.
The court has been informed that the success of schemes settling Evergrande’s offshore debt are not legally tied to the company’s debts on mainland China, where 90 percent of its assets are located.
Evergrande last year announced ambitions to transform into an empire of new energy vehicles, but has delivered shy of 1,000 vehicles since mass production began last September.
“In the absence of new funding, Evergrande NEV will face the risk of shutdown,” the company said in the filing, referring to its new energy vehicle business.
China’s property sector remains in turmoil, with major developers — including Evergrande — failing to complete housing projects, triggering protests and mortgage boycotts from homebuyers.
Smaller firms have defaulted on loans or had problems raising cash since the government brought in stricter lending curbs in 2020.
In November, China’s banking regulator and central bank issued new measures to promote the “stable and healthy development” of the real estate industry.
They include credit support for indebted developers, financial support to ensure projects are completed and assistance for deferred-payment loans for homebuyers.
© Agence France-Presse