China’s Evergrande Group will pay interest due Thursday on one of its bonds, but it’s keeping rattled investors guessing about the fate of second, bigger payment due this week.
The troubled Chinese real estate conglomerate said Wednesday in a filing with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange that issues regarding a payment on a domestic yuan bond have been “settled through negotiations.”
Many questions remain unanswered, though. Evergrande did not elaborate on the terms of the payment. The amount of interest it owes on the bond is about 232 million yuan ($36 million), according to data from Refinitiv.
Interest worth $83.5 million on a dollar-denominated bond is also due Thursday, though the company has not said anything publicly about what will happen to that payment.
Evergrande is stumbling under $300 billion worth of debt, which is widely held by Chinese financial institutions, retail investors, home buyers and its suppliers in construction, materials and design industries. Foreign investors also hold some of its debt. Over the last few weeks, the company warned investors twice that it could default if it’s unable to raise money quickly.
It’s not clear whether the company will actually default, or whether Beijing will intervene and orchestrate some other type of restructuring. But the company’s failure would likely create aftershocks that could ripple through the financial market and the broader Chinese economy.
Earlier this week, global markets were gripped by fears about Evergrande, as stocks in Hong Kong, New York and other major markets fell.
Hong Kong markets — where Evergrande’s stock and some of its bonds trade — were closed on Wednesday for a holiday. Trading was muted in mainland China, which reopened after a two-day holiday. The benchmark Shanghai Composite was up 0.4%, reversing earlier losses.
Investors might have been placated by Evergrande’s stock exchange filing, even though it contained little detail.
“There appears to be an acceptance that an Evergrande failure is more a matter of when and not if, and the real question is how any fallout is managed,” wrote Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in a report on Wednesday, noting that the company had already missed loan repayments earlier this week.
He added that “the picture on this remains uncertain after a vague statement this morning” about the domestic bond coupons, and noted that Evergrande did not mention anything about the US dollar interest payment due Thursday.
One big question left for Evergrande is whether the Chinese government might be willing to bail the company out. So far, Beijing has remained quiet.
Many analysts believe the government will intervene in some capacity, but that a full bailout is unlikely.
“We do not expect the government to provide any direct support to Evergrande,” wrote S&P Global Ratings’ analysts in a research note on Tuesday. That’s because a government bailout would undermine Beijing’s campaign to “instill greater financial discipline in the property sector,” they wrote.
Instead of a bailout, the analysts expected the government’s focus to be on guiding Evergrande through an orderly debt restructuring or bankruptcy process, while ensuring small investors and home buyers are protected “as much as possible.”
“Government support to prevent a default is only likely if contagion risks cause other large developers to fail,” they said, adding that they believe the hit to the financial system from Evergrande alone will still be “manageable.”
Macquarie Group’s economists also expect that the government will make sure Evergrande’s pre-sold apartments get done and delivered to homebuyers, but shareholders and lenders could “take a big loss.”
— Anneken Tappe contributed to this report.