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Evergrande set to sell part of stake in property services unit

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Aerial photo taken on Sept. 17, 2021 shows a housing complex by Chinese property developer Evergrande in Huaian, China’s eastern Jiangsu province.

Stringer | AFP | Getty Images

Indebted developer Evergrande is set to sell part of its stake in its property services unit, the second asset sale in as many weeks as the liquidity-squeezed property giant scrambles to raise cash.

Trading in shares of Evergrande and Evergrande Property Services was halted Monday morning. In a filing with the Hong Kong exchange, Evergrande said it requested the trading halt ahead of an announcement about a “major transaction.”

Evergrande Property Services said that the announcement constitutes “a possible general offer for the shares of the Company.”

Chinese developer Hopson also suspended trading of its shares, citing an impending announcement of a “major transaction” to acquire the shares of a Hong Kong-listed company, without specifying. Chinese state media Global Times reported, citing unnamed media reports, that Evergrande will sell about 51% of its property services arm to Hopson for more than $5 billion.

Last week, Evergrande said it will sell a $1.5 billion stake in Shengjing Bank to a state-owned asset management firm.

Evergrande’s debt has stoked investor concern as it warned twice it could default, roiling markets. The property giant has also missed interest payments on two offshore bonds in recent weeks, leaving overseas investors in limbo. So far, the firm has remained silent on those payments.

Buckling under the weight of more than $300 billion in debt, Evergrande has been trying to offload stakes in other assets.

It sold property units to suppliers and contractors to offset some of its outstanding payments. As of Aug. 27, those outstanding debts amounted to around 25.17 billion yuan ($3.8 billion), according to Evergrande’s latest financial statement.

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Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank, said that “targeted and partial asset disposal to meet obligations is a fairly low bar.”

“The real question is whether there will be sustainable financing/cash-flow arrangements to keep the property sector as a going-concern,” he told CNBC, referring to functioning businesses generating cash-flows rather than being squeezed by liquidation.

Varathan added: “The wider point is that with a wall of obligations, restoring confidence is key. Whereas the general direction is still pointing to creditors making a bee-line and home-buyers being spooked.”

Evergrande also faces another deadline — a dollar note worth $260 million, issued by Jumbo Fortune Enterprises and guaranteed by Evergrande, was set to mature on Monday.

Non-payment would constitute a default and put pressure on the yuan, Varathan said.

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