BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) -China Evergrande Group will seek a six-month delay in the redemption and coupon payments of a 4.5 billion yuan ($157 million) bond in a meeting with bond holders this weekend, underscoring the pressure on the debt-laden property developer.
Evergrande is struggling to repay more than $300 billion in liabilities, including nearly $20 billion of offshore bonds deemed in cross-default by ratings agencies last month after it missed payments.
The delay is being sought due to the “current operational status” of the issuer, Hengda, the flagship property arm of Evergrande, said in a statement on Wednesday. It didn’t provide any further details on why the delay was sought.
The online meeting with the yuan bondholders will vote on a few proposals on Jan-7-10.
Evergrande is seeking to defer redemption and coupon payments of Hengda Real Estate Group’s 4.5 billion yuan 6.98% January 2023 bond to July 8 from Jan. 8, which gives bondholders the option to sell bonds back to the issuer this weekend.
Trading in the bonds will be halted from Jan. 6 ahead of the meeting with bondholders, Hengda said.
Evergrande, the most indebted developer in the world, has not yet missed any bond payments onshore, which are more senior than the offshore debt. The firm failed to make $82.5 million in offshore interest payments at the end of a month-long grace period early last month.
The developer’s publicly announced meeting with the onshore bondholders is in sharp contrast to the silence it continues to maintain about the status of its offshore credit since missing payment on its dollar coupons for the first time in September.
In another resolution to be passed during the online meeting, Hengda must promise to meet its debt obligation, and it will have to formulate a reasonable repayment plan as soon as it expects a failure to make a payment on time, according to the statement.
Chinese authorities have repeatedly reassured markets that Evergrande’s woes can be contained, and stressed that paying workers’ wages and delivering homes to buyers are priorities for developers in order to maintain social stability.
“A postponement is expected,” said a holder of the bonds in question on condition of anonymity. “Given the company is under pressure to prioritize wages …and apartments.”
Evergrande reiterated in a filing on Tuesday it would continue to actively maintain communication with creditors, strive to resolve risks and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of all parties.
The developer set up a risk management committee led by senior officials from state companies in December to study potential restructuring plans.
Evergrande shares listed in Hong Kong traded down 2.5% as of 0552 GMT, versus a 1.2% drop in the broader market.
($1 = 6.3725 yuan)
(Reporting by Ryan Woo, Andrew Galbraith, Ella Cao, Clare Jim and Xie Yu; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)