Chinese property developer Country Garden’s Hong Kong liquidation hearing adjourned

By Thomson Reuters May 16, 2024 | 10:08 PM

By Clare Jim

HONG KONG (Reuters) – A Hong Kong court adjourned to June 11 a hearing of a petition on Friday seeking liquidation of Country Garden, providing a breather to the embattled Chinese developer amid Beijing’s efforts to revive the crisis-hit property sector.

A Hong Kong firm filed the petition against Country Garden in February for non-payment of a $205 million loan. The developer defaulted on $11 billion of offshore bonds last year and is in the process of an offshore debt restructuring.

Country Garden applied for the adjournment to prepare more evidence. The request was not opposed by the petitioner which filed the action against the company.

If Country Garden is able to present progress on the debt restructuring talks with its offshore creditors, it would help the developer push back against the liquidation petition.

A key group of creditors, the ad hoc group of bondholders, have signalled their “neutral stance” towards the liquidation petition, according to the petitioner’s lawyer. In a letter to the court, the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, representing the ad hoc group, said they no longer intended to appear in the court.

The hearing into the petition comes against the backdrop of Chinese authorities stepping up efforts to revive the property sector, which slipped into an unprecedented debt crisis in mid-2021.

Over the past few years, a growing list of developers has defaulted on debt repayment obligations and a handful of them, including China Evergrande Group, have been ordered to be liquidated.

Beijing’s various policy measures since 2022 have failed to turn around the sector, which represents around a fifth of the economy and remains a major drag on consumer spending and confidence.

Evergrande was ordered to be liquidated in late January by a Hong Kong court after it failed to offer a concrete restructuring plan to creditors more than two years after defaulting on its offshore debt.

Country Garden told some of its offshore creditors last month it planned to present a debt restructuring proposal in the second half of this year, Reuters has reported, as the embattled developer scrambles to stave off the liquidation petition.

It also hired Kroll to carry out a liquidation analysis for the lawsuit, Reuters reported in April, to assess potential recovery rates for offshore creditors that they can present in court.

A liquidation order against Country Garden would worsen the outlook for China’s property sector.

Country Garden shares in Hong Kong have been suspended from trading since April 2, pending the release of its 2023 financial results.

(Reporting by Clare Jim in Hong Kong; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Sonali Paul)