China’s Country Garden Faces Winding Up Petition In Hong Kong - The World News

China’s Country Garden Faces Winding Up Petition In Hong Kong

Country Garden, China’s largest real estate developer as recently as 2022, said on Wednesday that a creditor had asked a Hong Kong court to liquidate its operations and pay off lenders, in the latest sign that China’s housing crisis continues unabated.

Ever Credit Ltd., a Hong Kong lender, is petitioning the city’s High Court to shut down Country Garden. The court filing involves Country Garden’s failure to repay a loan of $204 million plus interest owed to Ever Credit, the real estate developer told the Hong Kong stock market.

Ever Credit’s petition, known as a winding up petition, is meant to force Country Garden to close its doors and sell its assets to make money it can use to pay back its creditors. The move follows a High Court order last month for the liquidation of China Evergrande. Country Garden dethroned Evergrande as China’s largest developer in 2021 when Evergrande endured a financial collapse.

Country Garden said it would fight the court petition “vigorously,” and that the first hearing on the petition had been scheduled for May 17.

More than 50 Chinese property developers have defaulted on debts since 2021. They have refused to repay overseas creditors while still making arrangements with Chinese banks for possible eventual repayment.

Many of these developers have shares listed on the Hong Kong stock market or have borrowed there, or both. But creditors face formidable obstacles in seeking to recover loans from Chinese real estate developers through petitions to the court system in Hong Kong, said Zerlina Zeng, the head of East Asia corporate credits at CreditSights, a global credit research firm.

Most of the assets of Chinese developers are in mainland China, where courts might not recognize liquidation orders from Hong Kong. Even if mainland courts order liquidation sales of developers’ buildings, China’s increasingly strict limits on moving money out of the mainland could make it hard for creditors to lay their hands on the proceeds of those sales.

“We do not think that the winding up order would manage to improve the recovery rate” for debt repayment, Ms. Zeng said.

Country Garden essentially ran out of money last October to repay debts. Households in China have cut back sharply on purchases of apartments from private-sector developers like Country Garden as housing prices have slid steeply over the past two years.

Without cash from continued sales, developers have been unable to finish construction of millions of apartments that they had presold to buyers all over China. Nomura Securities of Japan estimated last month that 20 million presold homes awaited completion in China, and would require $450 billion to finish.

China’s real estate developers relied for many years on selling apartments before they were built, and then using the cash to finish other apartments that had previously been promised to other buyers. But that financial model has fallen apart as households have recoiled from dealings with private-sector developers that are having trouble finishing previous deals.

Country Garden’s presales of unfinished apartments plummeted 74 percent in the second half of last year from the same period in 2022. And the overall real estate industry’s troubles in China are growing even worse this year, with preliminary data showing that sales plunged another 40 percent at Lunar New Year earlier this month compared to the same holiday last year.

Mainland China is not alone in having real estate troubles right now — they have also spread to Hong Kong. Paul Chan, the city’s financial secretary, said on Wednesday in his annual budget address that he would repeal measures previously intended to curb speculation in Hong Kong apartments.

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