HONG KONG (Reuters) – Shanghai-based developer Shimao has put all its projects on sale, local media reported on Monday, and more Chinese property firms suffered credit rating cuts, leaving markets torn between hopes a stifling cash crunch will begin to ease and fears of a surge in defaults.
Chinese property developers are facing an unprecedented liquidity squeeze due to regulatory curbs on fresh borrowing, leading to a string of offshore debt defaults, credit-rating downgrades and sell-offs in developers‘ shares and bonds.
The cash crunch for the sector, which is one of the main contributors to the China’s economic output, is expected to intensify in the days ahead with a wall of repayment obligations looming in the next few months.
China Evergrande Group, the world’s most indebted developer at the centre of the sector’s debt crisis, is seeking a six-month delay in the redemption and coupon payments of a 4.5 billion yuan ($157 million) bond.
Developer Shimao’s fire sale, new rating cuts keep China property on edge
The outcome of the company’s proposal after a Jan. 7-10 meeting with the bondholders is expected by Jan. 13 after the developer said in a filing it had extended the voting period.
Evergrande is struggling to repay more than $300 billion in liabilities, including nearly $20 billion of offshore bonds deemed in cross-default by ratings agencies last month after it missed payments.
“It’s going to be the peak of repayment period and we’ll see more developers default,” said Kington Lin, managing director of Asset Management Department at Canfield Securities Limited.
Shimao Group Holdings, which defaulted on a trust loan last week, has put on sale all of its real estate projects, including both residential and commercial properties, Caixin reported over the weekend.
The developer has struck a preliminary deal with a Chinese state-owned company to sell its commercial property Shimao International Plaza Shanghai for more than 10 billion yuan, the report said.
Daiwa predicted in a research report a vicious liquidity cycle given the recent negative news, even though the firm said it was not in debt servicing default.
Shimao unit Shanghai Shimao Construction said on Friday it was in talks with China Credit Trust to resolve a $101 million defaulted loan payment. The missed payment would not accelerate payment requests in the open bond market, it added.
“This, in turn, would negatively impact Shimao’s future refinancing activities and contract sales prospects and lead to further deteriorating cash payday loans online alabama flows and liquidity.”
Moody’s Investors Service on Monday cut Shimao corporate family rating deeper into the junk category, citing its “weakening access to funding and large near-term debt maturities” and kept it on review for a further downgrade.
Shimao shares ended up 19% on Monday, but its bonds due in was down nearly 20 basis points. An index of China high-yield debt, which is dominated by developer issuers, hit a new low.
GROWING DEFAULT RISK
The amount of maturing offshore bonds issued by Chinese property developers will almost double from $10.2 billion in the fourth quarter last year to $19.8 billion in this quarter and $18.5 billion in the next, according to brokerage Nomura.
While the risk of more property developers defaulting on their payment obligations has grown, there are some hopes that the recent government measures will help the sector.
Reuters reported last week that China will make it easier for state-backed property developers to buy up distressed assets of debt-laden private peers, another step by policymakers to avert a liquidity crisis in the sector.
“The market is watching how many SOEs (state-owned enterprises) will get more M&A loans to help the developers in distress,” Canfield Securities‘ Lin said.
Separately, small developer Modern Land, which has missed payment for its % notes due , said in a filing on Monday it has received notices from certain noteholders demanding early repayment of their senior notes.
The developer said it has been discussing a waiver with these creditors and has appointed financial advisers to formulate a plan. It is also in talks on a restructuring plan for $1.3 billion of its offshore bonds, the firm added.
Reporting by Clare Jim and Donny Kwok in Hong Kong, Samuel Shen in Shanghai; additional reporting by Marc Jones in London; Editing by Kim Coghill, Shri Navaratnam and Tomasz Janowski