China Evergrande seeks Chapter 15 protection in Manhattan bankruptcy court

By Jonathan Stempel, Dietrich Knauth and Manya Saini

NEW YORK (Reuters) -China Evergrande, which is the world’s most heavily indebted property developer and became the poster child for China’s property crisis, on Thursday filed for protection from creditors in a U.S. bankruptcy court.

The company sought protection under Chapter 15 of the U.S. bankruptcy code, which shields non-U.S. companies that are undergoing restructurings from creditors that hope to sue them or tie up assets in the United States.

An affiliate, Tianji Holdings, also sought Chapter 15 protection on Thursday in Manhattan bankruptcy court.

A lawyer for Evergrande did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Evergrande’s filing comes amid growing fears that problems in China’s property sector could spread to other parts of the country’s economy as growth slows.

Since the sector’s debt crisis unfolded in mid-2021, companies accounting for 40% of Chinese home sales have defaulted.

The health of Country Garden, China’s largest privately run developer, is also worrying investors after the company missed some interest payments this month.

Evergrande recently had $330 billion of liabilities. A late 2021 default triggered a string of defaults at other builders, resulting in thousands of unfinished homes across China.

In a filing in the Manhattan bankruptcy court, Evergrande said it was seeking recognition of restructuring talks under way in Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

Evergrande has said creditors may be able to vote this month on a restructuring, with possible approval by Hong Kong and British Virgin Islands courts in the first week of September.

The company proposed scheduling a Chapter 15 recognition hearing for Sept. 20.

Last month, Evergrande posted a combined $81 billion loss for 2021 and 2022, prompting investor worries about the viability of a debt restructuring plan it proposed in March.

On Monday, its electric-vehicle unit China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group announced its own proposed restructuring.

That plan called for a $2.7 billion debt-for-equity swap, and a nearly $500 million share sale that would give Dubai-based automaker NWTN a 27.5% stake.

Evergrande NEV’s combined 2021 and 2022 loss was nearly $10 billion.

Trading in China Evergrande shares was suspended in March 2022.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Dietrich Knauth in New York, and Manya Saini in BengaluruEditing by Anil D’Silva, Deepa Babington and Matthew Lewis)