What next for Evergrande’s creditors?
A Hong Kong court on Monday ordered the liquidation of Evergrande, the heavily indebted Chinese property giant. The decision comes two years after the company defaulted, setting off a financial crisis at other developers and adding to the challenges facing the world’s second-largest economy.
The company’s dissolution raises questions about fairness for overseas creditors — which could have wider implications for foreign businesses operating in China.
How Evergrande fell: The company was once deemed too big to fail, racking up debt to expand during a property boom that made the real estate sector a key driver of China’s economic growth. But as the economy slowed, property sales plummeted, and Chinese regulators began clamping down on excessive leverage and speculation. Evergrande struggled to refinance its debts, which had ballooned to more than $300 billion, and repeatedly sought more time to work out a deal with creditors.
The judge presiding over Evergrande’s bankruptcy case has now called time after two years of talks. Hong Kong-listed shares in Evergrande, which continued to trade despite the bankruptcy proceedings, plunged more than 20 percent before trading was halted, valuing the developer at just $275 million.
Creditors are likely to struggle to get their money back. There’s little sign that China’s property prices will recover soon, or that consumers will start buying like they once did. Sales of new homes fell 6 percent last year, to a level last seen in 2016.
The proceedings will test protections for overseas investors. The Hong Kong judge appointed the Western restructuring firm Alvarez & Marsal to liquidate Evergrande. But most of the company’s assets are in mainland China, where liquidators appointed by Hong Kong courts haven’t historically been allowed to take control of assets.