It took Evergrande less than a day to go from denying “rumors” of bankruptcy (as per a statement posted on its website earlier today), to confirming that a bankruptcy is imminent.
In a filing on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Tuesday, Evergrande which was busy trying to convince angry Chinese mobs that they will get their money and/or apartments and that it has no plans of default, the company all but conceded that a bankruptcy is imminent when it said it has hired notable bankruptcy advisors Houlihan Lokey and Admiralty Harbour Capital as joint FAs to “assess the firm’s capital structure”, a well-known euphemism of “prepare to file for bankruptcy.” And just so there was no doubt as to what is coming next, the company said if it’s unable to repay debts on time or get creditors to agree to extensions or alternative arrangements, it may lead to cross-default.
It quickly went downhill from there, with the company saying that it expects “significant continuing decline” in contract sales in September, resulting in “continuous deterioration” of cash collection, according to the statement. That will place “tremendous pressure” on the group’s cash flow and liquidity.
Finally, guaranteeing that a default is just a matter of days if not less, the company admitted that it has failed to make “material progress” on the sale of stakes in China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group Ltd. and Evergrande Property Services Group Ltd., while the sale of its office building in Hong Kong hasn’t been completed within the expected timetable.
In short a total disaster, and all this is happening a tens of thousands of Chinese are starting to feel insurrectiony – the real thing, not that January 6 tourist trap – and if they suffer losses, and in a company with $300BN in debt they will suffer major losses, their protests which have been largely peaceful to date will turn quite violent.
As we reported this morning, police descended on Evergrande’s Shenzhen headquarters late Monday after dozens of people gathered to demand repayments on overdue wealth management products. Protesters numbered in the hundreds on Sunday, Caixin reported. In addition to equity investors who are about to lose everything, the company is also facing angry homebuyers, creditors and even its own employees… who are also about to lose everything.
“It looks like they are working on debt restructuring after no concrete results on asset disposals, and the first task is to stabilize the holders of wealth management products which could be a social issue,” said Daniel Fan, a credit analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “It seems the developer is working on rescheduling pretty much all onshore debt, and the next step is to do the same for offshore investors.
Translation: a bond default is imminent, and the only question is what will creditors get in return.
How imminent? According to Bloomberg, two units failed to discharge their guarantee obligations on time for wealth management products worth 934 million yuan ($145 million), the company said, adding it’s in talks with issuers and investors on a repayment arrangement. If the company fails to reach a resolution, it’s all over and the bankruptcy process begins.
And while distressed investors are already circling the company’s dollar bonds which are trading around 25-30 cents on the dollar, with the market pricing in a potential restructuring, this is an especially risky proposition according to Citigroup. According to the bank, the insolvent developer’s bonds are trading at levels that attract the type of investors who place bets on the hardest-hit companies, but dollar bond holders may not be prioritized in a debt restructuring and a resolution could take years, Citi warned.
“We caution that offshore holdco debt is deeply subordinated to onshore secured bank debt and opco debt, and recovery values in any restructuring could be low,” wrote Citi strategist W.R. Eric Ollom.
“Disposition of Evergrande’s substantial land bank to meet creditor claims could be lengthy, resulting in stretched out legal proceedings.”
Citi also speculated that a solution for Evergrande may include forced core asset sales as well as haircuts for some classes of debt – notably dollar-denominated ones – the Citi strategists wrote, noting that Evergrande’s offshore bonds may be treated as subordinated to bank and opco borrowings in an onshore restructuring. Meanwhile, Nomura credit analyst Iris Chen said a debt restructuring is “almost unavoidable,” predicting a base-case scenario where bondholders would recover 25% of their money.
And while Evergrande’s bonds can’t really fall much more from here, and in fact are prone to short squeezes, the same can not be said for its peers, and as Evergrande stock plunged again, dropping as much as 8.6% to a the lowest since 2014, it also dragged fown lenders and companies that previously disclosed large revenue exposure to the developer after the news that bankruptcy advisors had been hired. Among them, China Minsheng Bank fell 1.2% in Hong Kong; Industrial and Commercial Bank of China fells at least 0.6%, Suning.com was down -0.4%, Beijing Jiayu Door Window and Curtain Wall Joint-Stock -1.7%, Shenzhen Grandland -1.4%, Skshu Paint -3.5%.
Expect much more pain once the company finally pulls the plug, and China’s Lehman moment arrives.