China Evergrande winding-up hearing adjourned as it seeks new debt deal

By Clare Jim and Xie Yu

HONG KONG (Reuters) -A Hong Kong court gave China Evergrande Group a five week reprieve to come up deal with creditors or face liquidation after the embattled developer said on Monday it was working on a revised debt restructuring plan.

The Hong Kong High Court agreed to further adjourn a hearing to wind up Evergrande to Dec. 4, with Justice Linda Chan saying the next hearing would be the last before a decision is made on liquidating the company.

Evergrande needed to come up with a "concrete" revised restructuring proposal before that date, she said, otherwise it was likely the firm would be wound up.

Evergrande, which has more than $300 billion of liabilities, defaulted on its offshore debt in late 2021 and became the poster child of a debt crisis that has since engulfed China's property sector.

Evergrande had been working on a $23 billion offshore debt restructuring plan which was thrown off course last month when its billionaire founder Hui Ka Yan was confirmed to be under investigation for suspected criminal activities.

Due to an investigation into its flagship property unit, Evergrande was barred by mainland regulators from issuing new dollar bonds, a crucial part of the restructuring plan.

Evergrande's lawyer told the court on Monday the company plans to "monetise the value" of its two Hong Kong-listed units.

Evergrande has reached out to some bondholders with a new restructuring plan in the past two weeks, two sources said.

The revised plan would allow bondholders to swap their bonds into equity and bonds tied to two listed subsidiaries, Evergrande Property Services Group and Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group. Any proposal no longer includes new notes to be issued by China Evergrande, they added.

Evergrande did not respond to a request for comment.

'NO BETTER OPTION'

The company's shares closed down 9.8% on Monday, having fallen as much as 23% in the morning session before the adjournment.

China's property sector accounts for about a quarter of the activity in the world's second-largest economy. Its woes have rattled global markets and prompted a slew of measures by Beijing to reassure investors and homeowners.

A liquidation of Evergrande, which listed total assets of $240 billion as at end-June, would send further shockwaves through already fragile capital markets, but is expected to have little immediate impact on the company's operations, including its many home construction projects.

"The company has been given a very clear message by the court that this is the last chance to propose a viable restructuring plan that is acceptable to the creditors," Neil McDonald, a Kirkland Ellis partner who represents the major bondholder group, told Reuters.

A lawyer for the bondholders group told the court they supported the adjournment, because a restructuring plan could have a higher recovery rate for creditors than a liquidation scenario of less than 3%.

Top Shine, an investor in Evergrande unit Fangchebao, filed the winding-up petition in June 2022 because it said Evergrande had not honoured an agreement to repurchase shares the investor bought in the unit.

LOGAN LIQUIDATION

Fellow property developer Logan Group's winding up order was also adjourned by the same court to Dec 4.

The Shenzhen-based company said last year it would suspend interest payments and restructure its offshore debt including $3.7 billion in dollar bonds due to liquidity pressure.

Little progress has been made on the restructuring talks since the company said in March it started negotiations with offshore creditors to agree with proposed restructuring terms, bondholders told Reuters.

Logan did not respond to request for comment.

Logan and two of its subsidiaries received a winding-up petition in Nov 2022 filed by the bond trustee who represents a few investors holding the 5.75% 2025 bond.

(Reporting by Clare Jim and Xie Yu in Hong Kong; Additional reporting by Scott Murdoch in Sydney; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Miral Fahmy)