BEIJING – Seeking to allay fears of financial turmoil, some Chinese banks are disclosing what they are owed by a real estate developer struggling with debt of less than $ 310 billion, saying they can face a possible default.
The announcements came as the Evergrande group vowed to speak with some individual investors who bought out its debt while creditors waited to see if Beijing steps in to oversee a restructuring to avoid financial disruption.
Evergrande’s struggle to meet government-imposed debt limits has raised fears that a default could disrupt the Chinese economy or global financial markets. While rating agencies say default looks likely, economists say Beijing can prevent a credit crunch in China but wants to avoid bailout Evergrande while trying to force companies to cut debt levels.
One of Evergrande’s largest lenders, Zheshang Bank Co., said he owed it 3.8 billion yuan ($ 588 million) and had “sufficient collateral”.
“The overall risk is controllable,” the bank said in a written response to questions posted on a website operated by the Shanghai Stock Exchange. He said it was a “risky situation… Will not have a significant impact” on the bank.
Others, including Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Ltd., gave no financial figures but said their loans were small, tied to individual projects and secured by land claims. Pudong Bank said it was in “close communication” with Evergrande.
Changshu Rural Commercial Bank Co. in eastern Jiangsu Province said it had 3.9 million yuan ($ 600,000) in loans outstanding in Evergrande, secured by land. The largest state-owned commercial lenders, including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd., did not respond to questions.
Evergrande was caught by tighter borrowing limits imposed on real estate last year by regulators trying to curb rising debt levels, concerns of the ruling Communist Party could dampen economic growth that is already in long-term decline.
Regulators have yet to say what Beijing might do, but economists say if the ruling party gets involved, it will likely work to make sure families get apartments they’ve already paid for, rather than trying to bail out banks or other creditors.
Evergrande is one of China’s largest private sector conglomerates, with more than 200,000 employees, 1,300 projects in 280 cities and assets of 2.3 trillion yuan ($ 350 billion). He owes his creditors some 2,000 billion yuan ($ 310 billion).
Other large developers such as Vanke Co., state-owned Poly Group, and Wanda Group have not reported similar issues. But hundreds of small developers have closed their doors since regulators in 2017 began to tighten control over funding.
Evergrande debt investors who gathered at its headquarters in the southern city of Shenzhen on Friday said the company agreed to hold a phone meeting with them. Dozens of police officers with six vehicles stood guard outside the building.
Evergrande said earlier it negotiated details of an interest payment due Thursday to banks and other bondholders in China, but gave no details.
The company has yet to say whether it will make a payment of $ 83.5 million that was due Thursday on an overseas bond. It has 30 days before it is declared in default, but economists say the company appears to be focused on paying off creditors in China.
Meanwhile, Evergrande offers to pay off some of its debt investors with apartments and other property.
The offer applies to investors who hold a total of approximately 40 billion yuan ($ 6 billion) in debt issued by its Evergrande Wealth unit. Reports indicate that these are usually retail customers, employees of Evergrande’s subcontractors and the company’s own workforce.
Evergrande said Thursday that investors can apply online for available properties.
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