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China's debt-hit Country Garden delays bond repayment vote — Bloomberg

Company asked to extend payment on $535m note until 2026

By AFP - Aug 27,2023 - Last updated at Aug 27,2023

This photo taken on June 15, 2023, shows the headquarters of China's developer Country Garden Holdings in Foshan, in China's southern Guangdong province, China (AFP file photo)

BEIJING — Deeply indebted Chinese developer Country Garden has delayed the deadline for a vote by bondholders on whether to extend repayment on a key note until next week, as it flirts with a potentially catastrophic default, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

One of China's biggest builders, Country Garden has accumulated debts of more than $150 billion and said this month it had failed to make interest payments on two bonds — putting it at risk of default.

The company has asked to extend payment on a 3.9 billion yuan ($535 million) note until 2026, originally setting an online vote among bondholders to end at 10pm Beijing time Friday (1400 GMT).

However Bloomberg News, citing a filing to the Shanghai Stock Exchange's private disclosure platform, reported just hours before the original deadline that the company had pushed it back to August 31.

If bondholders refuse, Country Garden could become the biggest Chinese real estate firm to default since rival Evergrande in 2021.

The company also faces a deadline for a separate bond payment at the beginning of September.

Country Garden's cash flow problems have ignited fears that it could collapse and spread turbulence through China's economy and financial system.

The nation's economic rise has been largely founded on property and construction, which account for about a quarter of GDP.

But a years-long government credit crunch and crippling debts among many developers have hit the sector hard in recent years.

Beijing has offered more support for the industry in the face of a wider economic slump, and on Friday announced a suite of new mortgage easing policies.

Country Garden is expected to publish its results for the first half of the year in the coming days and has said it expects a net loss of as much as 55 billion yuan ($7.5 billion).

Adding to the pressure on the firm, 31 billion yuan in bonds will expire in 2024, according to rating agency Moody's.

Ratings firm Fitch said on Wednesday it was downgrading a Country Garden subsidiary to junk, saying the unit's "growth, brand reputation, profitability and funding access may be negatively affected by the heightened liquidity pressure" at the developer.

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