China Evergrande seeks US$1.5b via tower financing
HIGHLY-LEVERAGED property firm China Evergrande Group is in talks with financial institutions to raise about US$1.5 billion this month by offering its Hong Kong office tower as collateral, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The fund-raising plan underscores the pressure the developer is under, as China’s property sector slows and Beijing’s capital controls have restricted its ability to pay an offshore debt, which stood at US$16.4 billion as at the end of June.
Evergrande bought the office tower in Wan Chai, a bustling business district by day and red-light district by night on Hong Kong island, for HK$12.5 billion (S$2.2 billion) in 2015 from Chinese Estates Holdings.
While the practice of raising money by offering property as collateral is not uncommon among highly leveraged Chinese developers, it is unusual to securitise a building that has yet to be fully paid off, a property market expert said.
Evergrande had agreed to pay off the tower in instalments to Chinese Estates within six years of the sale.
“Evergrande is trying to … extract additional liquidity,” said one of the sources, who has direct knowledge of the fund-raising plan.
Helped by record profit and a boom in China’s property market, Evergrande cut its net gearing ratio to 127 per cent at end-June from 184 per cent at the end of 2017, while total borrowings dropped as much as 8 per cent during the period.