China's Country Garden shares sink to record low on loss forecast and restructuring fears

Country's largest private property developer expects first-half loss of up to $7.6 billion

Country Garden is one of several Chinese developers struggling to rebuild in the wake of a property slump. Bloomberg
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Shares of China's largest private property developer Country Garden plunged to a record low on Friday after it forecast a first-half loss of up to $7.6 billion and a media report said it was preparing for a debt restructuring.

The company, which had total liabilities of about $194 billion at the end of last year and large exposure to lower-tier cities, is expected to begin a restructuring process soon, Chinese news outlet Yicai said.

China International Capital Corporation (CICC) has been hired as a financial adviser to lead the restructuring, the report added.

Country Garden declined to comment. CICC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Country Garden said this week that it had not been able to make $22 million of dollar coupon payments on time, though both have 30-day grace periods.

The missed payments triggered a sell-off in its shares and bonds and deepened contagion worries in a sector that accounts for a quarter of China's economy but has already seen many company defaults since late 2021.

The shares shed as much as 14.4 per cent on Friday morning to a record low of HK$0.89 ($0.1139), having lost 38 per cent of their value so far this week.

Most of its dollar bonds traded at a record low below 7 cents on the dollar, further down from 8 cents on Tuesday after it missed the two coupon payments.

The firm's onshore notes including two bonds due in 2025 trading in Shanghai dropped more than 11 per cent.

Country Garden forecast the large first-half loss in filings on Thursday, and said that it would take measures to meet its debt obligations and fix operational issues to get the company back on track.

On Thursday, ratings agency Moody's downgraded Country Garden's corporate family rating to Caa1 from B1, citing heightened liquidity and refinancing risk after the company missed bond payments.

Other major Chinese property developers including China Evergrande Group and Sunac China Holdings have already proposed debt restructuring terms.

China's Politburo, a top decision-making body of the ruling Communist Party, pledged in late July to adjust property policies in a timely manner, while omitting the often-repeated phrase used by officials that "houses are for living in, not for speculation", fuelling speculation more stimulus was on the way.

Industry executives and analysts said Country Garden's missed payments this week could prod regulators into rolling out stronger aid measures, but they had little faith such steps would turn the debt-laden sector around any time soon.

Updated: August 11, 2023, 6:13 AM