China Evergrande lines up funds for interest payment to avert default — source

Evergrande shares jumped on the news, driving gains in other developers. (Getty Images)
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Updated 22 October 2021

China Evergrande lines up funds for interest payment to avert default — source

  • Company faced end of 30-day grace period for payment on Oct. 23
  • Next 30-day grace period expires Oct. 29 for Sept. 29 payment

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI: China Evergrande Group has supplied funds to pay interest on a US dollar bond, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Friday, days before a deadline that would have seen the developer plunge into formal default.
The person said Evergrande remitted $83.5 million to a trustee account at Citibank on Thursday — as earlier reported on Friday by state-backed Securities Times — allowing it to pay all bondholders before the payment grace period ends on Oct. 23.
News of the remittance will likely bring relief to investors and regulators worried about a default’s wider fallout in global financial markets, adding to reassurance from Chinese officials who have said creditors’ interests would be protected.
Still, the developer, saddled with $300 billion in liabilities, will need to make payments on a string of other bonds, with the next major deadline to avoid default only a week away and little known about whether it is in a position to pay those debts.
“They seem to be avoiding short-term default and it’s a bit of a relief that they have managed to find liquidity,” said a Hong Kong-based debt restructuring lawyer representing some bondholders, who did not want to be identified.
“But still, Evergrande does need to restructure its debt. This payment might be a way for them to get some sort of buy-in with stakeholders before the heavy work needed on the restructuring.”
It was not immediately clear how cash-strapped Evergrande was able to raise funds for paying the bondholders or whether any bondholders have already received the money.
Evergrande did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment. Citibank declined to comment. The person with knowledge of the matter was not authorized to speak with media and so declined to be identified.
News of the remittance comes a day after financial information provider REDD said Evergrande had secured more time to pay a defaulted bond it guaranteed, issued by Jumbo Fortune Enterprises. “This is a positive surprise,” said James Wong, portfolio manager at GaoTeng Global Asset Management, who had expected a default.
The news would boost bondholders’ confidence, he said, as “there are many coupon payments due ahead. If Evergrande pays this time, I don’t see why it won’t pay the next time.”
Evergrande missed coupon payments totalling nearly $280 million on its dollar bonds on Sept. 23, Sept. 29 and Oct. 11, beginning 30-day grace periods for each.
Subsequent non-payment would result in formal default and trigger cross-default provisions for its other dollar bonds.
Evergrande’s next payment deadline is Oct. 29 with the expiration of the 30-day grace period on its Sept. 29 coupon.

TEMPORARY RELIEF
Evergrande’s dollar bond prices surged on Friday, with its April 2022 and 2023 notes jumping more than 10 percent, data from Duration Finance showed, though they still traded at deeply distressed levels of around a quarter of their face value.
Its shares rose as much as 7.8 percent, a day after trade resumed following a more than two-week halt pending the announcement of a stake sale in its property management unit, which was scrapped this week.
Evergrande’s woes have reverberated across the $5 trillion Chinese property sector, which accounts for a quarter of the economy by some metrics, with a string of default announcements, rating downgrades and slumping corporate bonds.
In the latest such move, Fitch Ratings on Thursday cut Sinic Holdings (Group) Co. Ltd’s long-term foreign currency issuer default rating to “restricted default” from “C” as the developer failed to repay its $250 million notes due Oct. 18.
Still, the Evergrande news helped the Hang Seng mainland properties index surge more than 4 percent versus a gain of 0.25 percent in the broader Hang Seng index.
It also helped Evergrande’s smaller peer Kaisa Group Holdings Ltd, whose dollar bonds surged in price.
Kaisa was the first Chinese developer to default back in 2015 and the Evergrande crisis has put it back in the spotlight.
In mainland markets, the CSI300 Real Estate index jumped as much as 6.5 percent, and an index tracking the broader property sector was eyeing its biggest gain in nearly two months.
When asked whether it will step in to help its rival to ease its liquidity crisis, Chairman Yu Liang of the nation’s third-biggest developer, China Vanke Co. Ltd, said developers needed to ensure their own safety first.
“Everyone feels the chill as ‘winter’ arrives for the sector... Whether we can pass this winter safely is still unknown,” Yu told a company forum on Friday.

FREEWHEELING
Evergrande’s woes had been snowballing for months. Dwindling resources set against more than $300 billion of liabilities had wiped out 80 percent of its value.
Founded in Guangzhou in 1996, the developer epitomised a freewheeling era of borrowing and building. But that business model has been scuttled by hundreds of new rules designed to curb developers’ debt frenzy and promote affordable housing.
Analysts said any prospect of demise would raise questions over what would happen to the more than 1,300 real estate projects Evergrande has ongoing in over 280 cities, and any impact the wider property sector.
Bank exposure to developers is also extensive. A leaked 2020 document, branded a fake by Evergrande but taken seriously by analysts, showed the company’s liabilities extending to more than 128 banks and over 121 non-banking institutions.
“Given that we have little clarity on how bank financing is going for stalled real estate projects, but we know that project pre-sales are down a lot, the onshore business is unlikely to be supplying cash to Evergrande near-term,” said analyst Travis Lundy at Quiddity Advisers in Hong Kong.

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Startup of the Week: Wafeer — helping Saudis spend wisely and save money

Updated 27 November 2021

Startup of the Week: Wafeer — helping Saudis spend wisely and save money

JEDDAH: Personal finance app Wafeer is the only service in Saudi Arabia that automatically tracks user’s spending patterns in a bid to help them stick to budgets.
The fintech company was founded by Salah Al-Bassam, Ahmad Ramadan and Abdulaziz Al-Jasser in 2019.
Each founder brings their own skills to the firm — Al-Bassam is an investment professional, Ramadan specialized in tech, while Al-Jasser is an engineer.
“We believe this was the formula that made Wafeer what it is right now, the broad and diverse experience that each founder brings to the table and of course our value add investors,” Al-Bassam told Arab News.
In March, Wafeer raised an undisclosed amount in a pre-seed funding round led by Nama Ventures, with participation from RAI group, WomenSpark, and several angel investors.
At the time, Nama Venture’s general partner Mohammed Alzubi said: “We first met the Wafeer team in August of 2020. The first thing that stood out for us was how complementary was the skillsets of the team, with real role clarity from the get go.”
Al-Bassam explains that its software automatically updates expenses that are paid through the app, rather than needing manual entry.
“Beyond tracking user’s expenses, Wafeer offers personalized advice using artificial intelligence helping users get notified before overspending and gives them recommendations that help cut spending or create wiggle room,” Al-Bassam said.
He added the Saudi Vision 2030 growth initiative highlights the importance of creating more awareness of spending, savings and investment through its Financial Sector Development Program.
Al-Bassam said: “It is one of the Vision's realization programs. This program has several goals, the most important of which are achieving financial diversity, stability, and promoting the culture of saving.
“Our goal at Wafeer is to play a role in achieving these objectives with the aim of answering this ongoing question that arises at the end of each month: What did I spend my salary on?”
Wafeer has 82,000 active users in its platform, who have notched up almost 1 million transactions.
The startup has partnered up with big companies in the region, such as online marketplace Noon and Saudi fast food app Hungerstation to provide special offers to customers.
Al-Bassam said: “We are proud of our partnerships, we have signed a number of strategic partnerships, most recently with Noon and Hungerstation to provide Wafeer users with exclusive discounts and offers that match their spending behavior.”
Wafeer currently only operates in the Kingdom, but has plans to extend its services to other Middle Eastern and North African countries.


Anghami to complete US merger ‘soon,’ CEO says

Updated 26 November 2021

Anghami to complete US merger ‘soon,’ CEO says

  • Maroun said the company’s priority is growth not profitability as it seeks to increase its market share from 6 percent

RIYADH: Lebanon’s Anghami, known as the Spotify of the Arab world, will not postpone its merger with the blank-check company Vistas Media in a potential $90 million deal, according to the firm’s CEO.

Eddie Maroun said the agreement had suffered a delay due to the procedures of the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US, but the deal will still go ahead.

The process is currently in its final stages, and the implementation will be announced very soon, he told Al-Arabiya on Thursday.

Maroun said the company’s priority is growth not profitability as it seeks to increase its market share from 6 percent.

He expects Anghami to achieve profitability within three years, he added.

Subscriptions represent 80 percent of the company’s revenue with the rest coming from advertising, Maround said.

Founded in 2012 in Lebanon, Anghami is the first legal music streaming platform in the Middle East and North Africa region.


Dubai real estate sector deals back to pre-pandemic level: Land department

Updated 26 November 2021

Dubai real estate sector deals back to pre-pandemic level: Land department

  • The number of deals in October was at the highest level since June 2019

RIYADH: Dubai’s real estate market has seen the highest value of deals since March 2019, according to data from the Dubai Land Department.

Figures show that in October, 5,352 transactions worth 13.12 billion UAE dirhams ($3.57 billion) were recorded.

The number of deals was at the highest level since June 2019.

The value of real estate sales transactions in the first 10 months of 2021 are more than the whole of 2020 and the highest since 2015, according to the data.

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Oman’s Bank Nizwa welcomes merger proposal from Sohar International

Updated 26 November 2021

Oman’s Bank Nizwa welcomes merger proposal from Sohar International

RIYADH: Oman-based Sohar International Bank and Bank Nizwa are considering a merger, according to Al-Arabiya.

Bank Nizwa’s board welcomed the proposal from Sohar International on Nov. 25 to study the idea of merging the two banks, it was reported.

Bank Nizwa recorded profit growth of 14 percent in the third quarter to 3 million Omani riyals ($7.7 million).

Profit growth of Bank Nizwa increased by 6 percent in the first nine months of 2021 to 9 million riyals.

Bank Nizwa is Oman’s first dedicated Islamic bank, launching in January 2013, with fully Shariah-compliant products and services.


Foxconn’s Jusda unit seeks pre-IPO financing

Updated 26 November 2021

Foxconn’s Jusda unit seeks pre-IPO financing

  • Foxconn’s supply chain management platform seeks $300 million to $400 million

RIYADH: Foxconn’s Jusda unit is considering raising funds from private investors ahead of a potential initial public offering early next year, sources told Bloomberg.

Foxconn’s supply chain management platform seeks to raise $300 million to $400 million in the so-called pre-IPO round, the sources said.

The company will use the proceeds to expand logistics services, they said.

Jusda is also in the early stages of evaluating a potential listing in Hong Kong in the second half of next year, the sources added.

No final decision has been taken because the considerations are preliminary and details such as the size of the funding can still be changed, they said.

Foxconn spokesman Jimmy Huang said Jusda has no plan for an IPO right now, and declined to comment on the fundraising.

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