Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings Co. left investors grasping for more information after it again delayed a deadline for voting on its request to extend a bond, underscoring a broader lack of transparency amid the nation’s property debt crisis.
(Bloomberg) — Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings Co. left investors grasping for more information after it again delayed a deadline for voting on its request to extend a bond, underscoring a broader lack of transparency amid the nation’s property debt crisis.
Voting was extended to 10 p.m. Beijing time Monday from Thursday, according to a noteholder briefed by one of the underwriting banks. That’s the the third time that Country Garden has delayed the deadline. The bond has 492 million yuan ($67.6 million) of outstanding principal due Oct. 21, its largest near-term maturity, unless holders agree to stretch repayment by three years.
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As the crisis in China’s real estate sector heads into its fourth year, money managers say that weak disclosure and governance practices are putting them off mainland borrowers longer-term. While Country Garden isn’t obliged to issue public statements on the vote outcomes and hasn’t done so, news on them has moved markets. That underscores the immense appetite for information on how one of the world’s most heavily indebted property firms will manage its 1.36 trillion yuan of total liabilities.
“The lack of clear communications has weighed on investor confidence, and could render it difficult to secure agreement on extensions,” said Chang Wei Liang, strategist at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore.
Creditors are increasingly pushing back on requests to delay bond principal payments. Country Garden had to delay voting on another plan twice, before getting sufficient approval just before the due date. State-backed builder Sino-Ocean Group Holding Ltd. faced creditor opposition before eventually getting approval. Its affiliate Sino-Ocean Capital Holding Ltd. failed to gain support for an extension.
Country Garden’s tumble into crisis has shocked China’s financial markets because it’s a household name, known for building homes in smaller cities. Helmed by one of the country’s richest women Yang Huiyan, the builder has become a symbol of the broader property crisis that’s led to record nonpayments and prompted authorities to adjust policy to avoid more contagion.
The bond on which voting was again extended was issued by unit Guangdong Giant Leap Construction. It’s the last in a group of eight notes totaling 10.8 billion yuan that Country Garden asked to stretch repayment on by three years, with extension of the other seven having already been approved in recent days.
Those other extensions on 10.3 billion yuan of bonds marked a significant respite, leaving Country Garden with just about 2 billion yuan of principal and interest for local notes with maturities or put options remaining in 2023.
But in a sign of how deeply distressed the firm still is, its dollar bonds have continued to hover about 9 to 13 cents, indicating that investors expect to recover very little if the company does go on to default.
Country Garden does still have until the Oct. 21 maturity date to get an extension passed on the Giant Leap bond.
While the firm has so far avoided defaulting, it recently warned it still could, after posting a record first-half loss of almost $7 billion. Any stumble could impact China’s housing market even more than a landmark default in late 2021 by China Evergrande Group, as the builder has four times as many projects.
Country Garden faces several offshore bond interest payments before its next major test when a $1 billion note matures in January.
The builder didn’t immediately offer a comment when reached on Friday.
–With assistance from Emma Dong and Qingqi She.
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