The party has ended. Years of aggressive borrowing have collided with Beijing’s crackdown on debt, leaving the developer on the brink of collapse. Construction of Evergrande’s projects in many cities has stopped. The company has faced a litany of complaints and protests from suppliers, small investors and home buyers who sank their savings into properties the company promised to deliver.
Cash is so short that this summer, the developer said it began paying bills to contractors and suppliers with unfinished apartments instead of actual money. A paint supplier based in the southeastern province of Fujian said Evergrande recently paid off the equivalent of $34 million in bills with three unfinished properties, which the supplier is trying to sell. At a construction firm in Wuhan, more than 200 employees have been forced to take pay cuts because some of Evergrande’s bills are past due, a manager at the firm said,
Former and current employees say layoffs are adding up, and free meals that Evergrande used to provide for staffers at its headquarters have been canceled. In central China’s Hubei province, Evergrande has asked the local government to take over homeowners’ funds held in escrow accounts so they can’t be seized in legal disputes with creditors, according to people familiar with the matter.
Evergrande didn’t respond to requests for comment. The company said on Sept. 14 that its apartment sales have slowed markedly since June, its asset-disposal plans haven’t materialized, and it has hired financial advisers — a move that brings it closer to a potential debt restructuring.
Growing investor angst about China’s real estate crackdown rippled through markets on Monday, adding pressure on Xi Jinping’s government to prevent financial contagion from destabilizing the world’s second-largest economy.
Hong Kong real estate giants including Henderson Land Development Co. suffered the biggest selloff in more than a year as traders speculated China will extend its property clampdown to the financial hub. Intensifying concerns about China Evergrande Group’s debt crisis dragged down everything from bank stocks to Ping An Insurance Group Co. and high-yield dollar bonds. One little-known Chinese property developer plunged 87% before shares were halted.
Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index slumped 3.3%, its biggest loss since late July. The selling also spilled over into the Hong Kong dollar, offshore yuan and S&P 500 Index futures. Holiday closures in much of Asia may have exacerbated the volatility, traders said.
“The repercussions from Evergrande’s prospective collapse will likely contribute to China’s ongoing economic deceleration, which in turn anchors global growth and inflation, and casts a pall over commodity prices,” wrote analysts led by Phoenix Kalen, head of emerging-market strategy in London.
Hong Kong moved unexpectedly to raise taxes on share trading by 30%, putting a damper on the city’s stock-exchange operator just as it was unveiling record annual sales and profits.
Paul Chan, the city’s financial secretary, proposed lifting the so-called stamp duty on stocks to 0.13% from 0.1%, as part of Hong Kong’s annual budget. The increase, which is the first in nearly three decades, would effectively add $3 to the cost of each $10,000 of stock traded, for both buyers and sellers. Some securities are exempt.
The looming tax increase pummeled Hong Kong Exchanges shares, even as it reported the equivalent of $1.48 billion in net profit for 2020, a 23% increase and its biggest-ever haul. The company’s stock, which has recently hit record highs, fell as much as 12% before paring some losses to close 8.8% lower. The city’s benchmark Hang Seng Index fell 3%.