© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The China Evergrande Centre building sign is seen in Hong Kong, China, September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
HONG KONG (Reuters) -Trading in shares of heavily indebted China Evergrande was suspended on Monday, days after some bondholders said the property developer at the centre of jitters over China’s financial system had missed a second key bond interest payment.
Shares of its unit Evergrande Property Services Group were also suspended, the Hong Kong stock exchange said. The bourse didn’t say why trading in the companies’ stock had been halted, and it was unclear who had initiated the suspension.
Evergrande did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
With liabilities stretching into hundreds of billions of dollars, equal to 2% of China’s gross domestic product, Evergrande has sparked concerns its woes could spread through the financial system and reverberate around the world. Initial worries have eased somewhat after China’s central bank vowed to protect homebuyers’ interests.
Monday’s share trading suspension sent a shiver through broader financial markets, which remain nervous about contagion, knocking the offshore yuan a little lower and weighing on the Hang Seng benchmark index and especially financials and other developers. Guangzhou R&F Properties Co Ltd fell 7%, Sunac China Holdings and Country Garden each fell 4%.
Shares in Evergrande have plunged 80% so far this year, while its property services unit has dropped 43% as the group scrambles to raise funds to pay its many lenders and suppliers.
Stock in its electric vehicle unit, China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group, fell as much as 8% early on Monday before paring losses.
The cash-strapped group said on Sept. 30 that its wealth management unit had made a 10% repayment of wealth management products (WMPs), which are largely owned by onshore retail investors, that were due by the same date.
Once China’s top-selling property developer and now expected to be the subject of one of the largest-ever restructurings in the country, Evergrande has been prioritising domestic creditors over offshore bondholders.
The two offshore payments, which bondholders said failed to arrive by their due date, come as the company, which has nearly $20 billion in offshore debt, faces deadlines on dollar bond coupon payments totalling $162.38 million in the next month.
Beijing is prodding government-owned firms and state-backed property developers to purchase some of Evergrande’s assets, sounding them out either directly or indirectly about asset purchases, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters last week.
Meanwhile Chinese property group Hopson Development said in a statement on Monday it had suspended trading in its shares, pending an announcement related to a major acquisition by Hopson of a Hong Kong-listed firm and a possible mandatory offer.
It was unclear whether the deal was related to Evergrande Group, and Hopson did not respond to a request for further comment.
Shares of Hopson, which has a market value of HK$60.4 billion ($7.8 billion), have jumped 40% so far this year.
($1 = 7.7868 Hong Kong dollars)