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China Evergrande lines up funds to pay interest, avert default -source

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October 22, 2021

By Clare Jim and Andrew Galbraith

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI (Reuters) -China Evergrande Group has supplied funds to pay interest on a U.S. dollar bond, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Friday, days before a deadline that would have seen the developer plunge into formal default.

The person said Evergrande remitted $83.5 million to a trustee account at Citibank on Thursday – as earlier reported on Friday by state-backed Securities Times – allowing it to pay all bondholders before the payment grace period ends on Oct. 23.

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News of the remittance will likely bring relief to investors and regulators worried about a default’s wider fallout in global financial markets, adding to reassurance from Chinese officials who have said creditors’ interests would be protected.

Still, the developer, saddled with $300 billion in liabilities, will need to make payments on a string of other bonds, with the next major deadline to avoid default on Oct. 29 and little known about whether it is in a position to pay.

“I expect it means they also plan to pay the offshore bond coupons due by the 29th,” said analyst Travis Lundy at Quiddity Advisors in Hong Kong.

“There’s no point in paying this one if you fully plan on not paying the next one six days later, but given the company’s self-reported cash flow difficulties, it is not clear how long they can keep that up.”

It was not immediately clear how cash-strapped Evergrande was able to raise funds for paying the bondholders or whether any bondholders have already received the money.

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Evergrande did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment. Citibank declined to comment. The person with knowledge of the matter was not authorised to speak with media and so declined to be identified.

News of the funds comes a day after financial information provider REDD said Evergrande had secured more time to pay a defaulted bond it guaranteed, issued by Jumbo Fortune Enterprises.

“They seem to be avoiding short-term default and it’s a bit of a relief that they have managed to find liquidity,” said a Hong Kong-based debt restructuring lawyer representing some bondholders, who did not want to be identified.

“But still, Evergrande does need to restructure its debt. This payment might be a way for them to get some sort of buy-in with stakeholders before the heavy work needed on the restructuring.”

Evergrande, which has nearly $20 billion in offshore debt, missed coupon payments totalling nearly $280 million on its dollar bonds on Sept. 23, Sept. 29 and Oct. 11, beginning 30-day grace periods for each.

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Subsequent non-payment would result in formal default and trigger cross-default provisions for its other dollar bonds.

Evergrande’s next payment deadline is Oct. 29 with the expiration of the 30-day grace period on its Sept. 29 coupon.

TEMPORARY RELIEF

Evergrande’s dollar bond prices surged on Friday, with its April 2022 and 2023 notes jumping more than 10%, data from Duration Finance showed, though they still traded at deeply distressed levels of around a quarter of their face value.

Its shares rose as much as 7.8%, a day after trade resumed following a more than two-week halt pending the announcement of a stake sale in its property management unit, which was scrapped this week.

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Evergrande’s woes have reverberated across the $5 trillion Chinese property sector, which accounts for a quarter of the economy by some metrics, with a string of default announcements, rating downgrades and slumping corporate bonds.

In the latest such move, Fitch Ratings on Thursday cut Sinic Holdings (Group) Co Ltd’s long-term foreign currency issuer default rating to “restricted default” from “C” as the developer failed to repay its $250 million notes due Oct. 18.

Still, the Evergrande news helped the Hang Seng mainland properties index surge more than 4% versus a gain of 0.25% in the broader Hang Seng index.

It also helped Evergrande’s smaller peer Kaisa Group Holdings Ltd, whose dollar bonds surged in price.

Kaisa was the first Chinese developer to default back in 2015 and the Evergrande crisis has put it back in the spotlight.

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In mainland markets, the CSI300 Real Estate index jumped as much as 6.5%, and an index tracking the broader property sector was eyeing its biggest gain in nearly two months.

When asked whether it will step in to help its rival to ease its liquidity crisis, Chairman Yu Liang of the nation’s third-biggest developer, China Vanke Co Ltd, said developers needed to ensure their own safety first.

“Everyone feels the chill as ‘winter’ arrives for the sector… Whether we can pass this winter safely is still unknown,” Yu told a company forum on Friday.

FREEWHEELING

Evergrande’s woes had been snowballing for months. Dwindling resources set against more than $300 billion of liabilities had wiped out 80% of its value.

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Founded in Guangzhou in 1996, the developer epitomised a freewheeling era of borrowing and building. But that business model has been scuttled by hundreds of new rules designed to curb developers’ debt frenzy and promote affordable housing.

Analysts said any prospect of demise would raise questions over what would happen to the more than 1,300 real estate projects Evergrande has ongoing in over 280 cities, and any impact the wider property sector.

Bank exposure to developers is also extensive. A leaked 2020 document, branded a fake by Evergrande but taken seriously by analysts, showed the company’s liabilities extending to more than 128 banks and over 121 non-banking institutions.

“Given that we have little clarity on how bank financing is going for stalled real estate projects, but we know that project pre-sales are down a lot, the onshore business is unlikely to be supplying cash to Evergrande near-term,” said Quiddity’s Lundy.

(Reporting by Clare Jim and Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong, Samuel Shen and Andrew Galbraith in Shanghai, Anshuman Daga and Tom Westbrook in Singapore and Marc Jones in London; Writing by Sam Holmes; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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Alibaba overhauls e-commerce businesses, appoints new CFO

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December 6, 2021

(Reuters) -Alibaba Group Holding Ltd said on Monday it was reorganising its international and domestic e-commerce businesses and would appoint a new chief financial officer.

The changes come as Alibaba faces headwinds on multiple fronts, including increased competition, a slowing economy and a regulatory crackdown.

The e-commerce giant’s Hong Kong-listed shares slid 8% in early morning trade.

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Alibaba said it would form two new units to house its main e-commerce businesses – international digital commerce and China digital commerce, in a bid to become more agile and accelerate growth.

The international digital commerce unit will house Alibaba’s overseas consumer-facing and wholesale businesses, and include AliExpress, Alibaba.com and Lazada. The unit will be headed by Jiang Fan, whose past roles include president of the Taobao and Tmall marketplaces.

Alibaba will house its domestic commerce businesses in the China digital commerce unit which be led by Trudy Dai, a founding member of Alibaba, it said.

The company’s deputy chief financial officer, Toby Xu, will succeed Maggie Wu as the company’s chief financial officer from April, it said, describing his appointment as part of the company’s leadership succession plan.

Xu joined Alibaba from PWC three years ago and was appointed deputy CFO in July 2019.

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Wu, who helped lead three Alibaba-related company public listings as CFO, will continue to serve as an executive director on Alibaba’s board.

Last month the company slashed its forecast for annual revenue growth to its slowest pace since its 2014 stock market debut and saw sales at its banner event, online shopping festival Singles Day, grow at their slowest rate ever.

(Reporting by Akriti Sharma in Bengaluru and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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China Evergrande shares hit 11-year low after firm says no guarantee it can meet repayments

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December 6, 2021

By Clare Jim

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Shares of China Evergrande Group tumbled 12% to an 11-year low on Monday after the firm said there was no guarantee it would have enough funds to meet debt repayments, prompting Chinese authorities to summon its chairman.

The shares fell as a 30-day grace period on a coupon payment of $82.5 million due on Nov. 6 comes to an end on Monday.

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Evergrande, once China’s top-selling developer, is grappling with more than $300 billion in liabilities. A collapse could send shockwaves through the country’s property sector and beyond.

In a filing late on Friday, Evergrande, the world’s most indebted developer, also said it had received a demand from creditors to pay about $260 million.

That prompted the government of Guangdong province, where the company is based, to summon Evergrande Chairman Hui Ka Yan, and it later said in a statement it would send a working group to the developer at Evergrande’s request to oversee risk management, strengthen internal controls and maintain normal operations.

In a series of apparently coordinated statements late in the evening, China’s central bank, banking and insurance regulator and its securities regulator sought to reassure the market that any risks to the broader property sector could be contained.

Short-term risks caused by a single real estate firm will not undermine market fundraising in the medium and long term, the People’s Bank of China said, adding that housing sales, land purchases and financing “have already returned to normal in China”.

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Evergraned’s stock fell more than 12% to HK$1.98, its lowest since May 2010.

(Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Christopher Cushing)

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Oil gains more than $1/bbl after Saudi price hike

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December 6, 2021

By Florence Tan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose by more than $1 a barrel on Monday after top exporter Saudi Arabia raised prices for its crude sold to Asia and the United States, and as indirect U.S.-Iran talks on reviving a nuclear deal appeared to hit an impasse.

Brent crude futures for February gained $1.69, or 2.4%, to $71.57 a barrel by 0033 GMT while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for January were at $67.92 a barrel, up $1.66, or 2.5%.

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On Sunday, Saudi Arabia raised January official selling prices for all crude grades sold to Asia and the United States by up to 80 cents from the previous month.

The price hikes were implemented despite a decision last week by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, to continue increasing supplies by 400,000 barrels per day in January.

Prices were also buoyed by diminishing prospects of a rise in Iranian oil exports after indirect U.S.-Iranian talks on saving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal broke off last week. European officials voiced dismay on Friday at sweeping demands by Iran’s new, hardline government. The talks are expected to resume middle of this week.

Both benchmarks rebounded after falling last week for their sixth week in a row for the first time since November 2018 on concerns that the new coronavirus variant Omicron could impact global economic growth and fuel demand.

In another sign of the turmoil unleashed by the ever-changing pandemic, the head of International Monetary Fund said the global lender is likely to lower its global economic growth estimates because of the new variant.

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Omicron has spread to about one-third of U.S. states as of Sunday.

(Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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