Cash-squeezed developer Country Garden faces another dollar coupon deadline

By Xie Yu

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Embattled Chinese property developer Country Garden faces yet another liquidity test with Monday’s deadline to pay $15 million in interest linked to an offshore bond after having dodged default at the last minute twice earlier this month.

The country’s No.1 private developer, whose financial woes have worsened the property sector outlook and prompted Beijing to unveil a raft of support measures, will have a 30-day grace period to pay the coupon before it would be considered in default.

If Country Garden fails to pay the $15 million before the grace period ends in mid-October, the principal will become due immediately and any failure to service will trigger cross-default terms, said Sandra Chow, co-head of Asia-Pacific research at CreditSights.

“It’s going to be really hard,” for Country Garden to meet debt obligations due to its tumbling cash levels at a time when property sales in the world’s second-largest economy remained very weak, Chow said.

A Country Garden spokesperson did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment on Monday about its latest debt repayment obligation.

Country Garden last month warned of default risks if its financial performance continues to deteriorate. It has 108.7 billion yuan ($14.9 billion) of debt due within 12 months but cash of only around 101 billion yuan as of June.

It avoided default by winning approval from its creditors to extend payments for an onshore private bond, in a major relief for the embattled Chinese developer as well as the crisis-hit property sector.

The developer in August missed coupon payments worth $22.5 million tied to two dollar bonds but managed to wire funds before a grace period ended earlier this month, dodging a default.

Last week, onshore bondholders approved to extend repayments of seven other Country Garden bonds by three years.

Shares in Country Garden, one of the few large Chinese developers that have not defaulted on debt obligations, were trading up nearly 1% in Hong Kong, while the broader market was down 0.9%.

Many creditors believe that Country Garden will have to restructure its offshore debt if it doesn’t get liquidity support soon.

Some offshore creditors of Country Garden have started talks with New York-based law firm Kobre & Kim LLP and London-based Ashurst and are looking at forming groups if the property developer seeks to restructure its debt.

(Reporting by Xie Yu in Hong Kong; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Lincoln Feast.)