Evergrande debt crisis: 5 things to know about the Chinese business empire on the brink

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Here’s what you need to know about Evergrande and how it got to where it is now.

Listed in Hong Kong and based in Shenzhen, southern China, it employs approximately 200,000 people. It also indirectly helps maintain over 3.8 million jobs each year.
The group was founded by Chinese billionaire Xu Jiayin, also known as Hui Ka Yan in Cantonese, who was once the richest man in the country.
Evergrande has made a name for itself in residential real estate – it boasts of “owning more than 1,300 projects in more than 280 cities” across China – but its interests extend far beyond.

Apart from housing, the group has invested in electric vehicles, sports and amusement parks. She even owns a food and beverage business, selling bottled water, groceries, dairy and other products across China.

In 2010, the company bought a soccer team, which is now known as Guangzhou Evergrande. This team has since built what is believed to be the largest football school in the world, at a cost of $ 185 million to Evergrande.
Guangzhou Evergrande continues to set new records: it is currently working on the creation of the largest football stadium in the world, assuming construction is completed next year as planned. The $ 1.7 billion site is shaped like a giant lotus flower and will eventually be able to accommodate 100,000 spectators.
Chinese club starts building world's largest soccer stadium for $ 1.7 billion
Evergrande also caters to tourists through its theme park division, Evergrande Fairyland. Its claim to fame is a gigantic enterprise called Ocean Flower Island in Hainan, the tropical province of China commonly known as “Chinese Hawaii”.
The project includes an artificial island with shopping centers, museums and amusement parks. According to the group’s most recent annual report, it started taking clients on a trial basis earlier this year, with plans for a full opening “by the end of 2021”.

How did he encounter problems?

In recent years, Evergrande’s debts have exploded as she borrowed to finance her various activities.

The group has gained notoriety for becoming the most indebted developer in China, with more than $ 300 billion in liabilities. In recent weeks, he has warned investors of cash flow issues, saying he could default if he is unable to raise funds quickly.

The warning was highlighted on Tuesday, when Evergrande revealed in a stock exchange document that it was struggling to find buyers for some of its assets.

Chinese real estate giant Evergrande again warns it could default on huge debts

In some ways, the company’s aggressive ambitions are what put it in the hot water, experts say. The group “has moved away from its core business, which is part of how it got into this mess,” said Mattie Bekink, Chinese director of the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Goldman Sachs analysts say the company’s structure has also made it “difficult to get a clearer picture of [its] recovery. ”In a note this week, they highlighted“ the complexity of the Evergrande group and the lack of sufficient information on the assets and liabilities of the company ”.

But the group’s struggles are also emblematic of the underlying risks in China.

“The story of Evergrande is the story of the depths [and] structural challenges of the Chinese economy related to debt, ”Bekink said.

The problem is not entirely new. Over the past year, a large number of Chinese state-owned enterprises defaulted on their loans, raising fears that China may depend on debt-fueled investments to support growth.
And in 2018, billionaire Wang Jianlin was forced to downsize his conglomerate, Dalian Wanda, as Beijing cracked down on companies that borrow heavily to grow overseas.
A woman riding a scooter in front of the construction site of an Evergrande housing complex in Zhumadian, Henan province, September 14, 2021.

In a note Wednesday, Mark Williams, Chief Economist at Capital Economics for Asia, said the Evergrande collapse “would be the biggest test the Chinese financial system has faced in years.”

“The root of Evergrande’s problems – and those of other highly leveraged developers – is that demand for residential properties in China is entering an era of sustained decline,” he wrote. “The ongoing collapse of Evergrande has drawn attention to the impact a wave of developer defaults would have on China’s growth.”

How does he try to move forward?

On Tuesday, Evergrande announced that it had called in financial advisers to help it assess the situation.

While these companies are tasked with exploring “all feasible solutions” as quickly as possible, Evergrande warned that nothing is guaranteed.

So far, the conglomerate has struggled to stem the bleeding and has failed to find buyers for parts of its electric vehicle and real estate services business.

China Evergrande Center in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong.

As of Tuesday, he had made “no substantial progress” in his search for investors, and “it is not certain that the group will be able to make such a sale,” he said.

The company also attempted to sell its office tower in Hong Kong, which it bought for around $ 1.6 billion in 2015. But this was “not completed on schedule,” he said. he declares.

How are investors reacting?

Evergrande’s troubles spilled into the streets this week when protests reportedly erupted at its headquarters in Shenzhen. Reuters images showed dozens of protesters at the site on Monday, accosting a person identified as a representative of the company.

But shareholders have been suspicious for months: the stock has lost 80% of its value this year.

Last week, Fitch and Moody’s Investors Services both downgraded Evergrande’s credit ratings, citing its liquidity problems. “We consider that some default is likely,” Fitch wrote in a note Tuesday.

The situation could frighten investors in China more broadly, at a time when they are already reeling from Beijing’s crackdown on private sector companies, especially in the tech sector.
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“In our opinion, how the Evergrande credit strains are resolved will influence market sentiment,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote, referring to the credit market and the economy in general. They added that the Chinese bond market could be affected and that a loss of confidence could “spill over to the real estate sector at large”.

Wall Street seems more optimistic about the risks of contagion abroad.

“I don’t think the collapse of Evergrande, and the financial problems of Chinese real estate companies more generally, will spill over into the US economy or markets,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told CNN Business .

What could happen next?

Analysts expect the Chinese government to step in to limit the fallout if Evergrande were to default. And the authorities are clearly watching closely, while trying to project calm.

On Wednesday, Fu Linghui, spokesperson for China’s National Bureau of Statistics, acknowledged the difficulties of “some large real estate companies,” according to state media.

Without directly naming Evergrande, Fu said that the Chinese real estate market has remained stable this year, but that the impact of recent events “on the development of the whole sector must be observed.”

People gathered at Evergrande's headquarters in Shenzhen on Wednesday.

Williams of Capital Economics predicted that the country’s central bank would “step in with liquidity support” if fears of a major default escalated.

The authorities are said to be taking action. On Tuesday, Bloomberg cited anonymous sources as saying that regulators had hired international law firm King & Wood Mallesons, among other advisers, to review the conglomerate’s finances. King & Wood Mallesons declined to comment.

According to the report, officials in Evergrande’s home province of Guangdong have already rejected a rescue request from its founder. Authorities in Guangdong and Evergrande did not respond to a request for comment.

An aerial view of the Guangzhou Evergrande football stadium under construction in December 2020.

But some suggest it may already be too late to save the business.

Evergrande’s financial woes have been widely described by Chinese media as a “huge black hole”, implying that no amount of money can solve the problem.

“We ultimately expect the government to intervene in Evergrande’s case because it will not allow the company’s defaults to spill over into the banking system,” Bekink said.

“The impacts of a major Evergrande default would be remarkable.”

–Kristie Lu Stout, Julia Horowitz, Laura He and the Beijing office of CNN contributed to this report.


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