March 28, 2017 / 9:11 AM / in 4 months

China Evergrande vows to de-leverage in 2017 after borrowings rise 80 percent

3 Min Read

A logo of China Evergrande Group is displayed at a news conference on the property developer's annual results in Hong Kong, China March 28, 2017.Bobby Yip

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China Evergrande Group (3333.HK), sitting on corporate China's second-biggest debt pile, on Tuesday vowed to enhance debt control from 2017 by repaying most of its high-interest loans, and said it was confident its leverage ratio will fall after strong sales and an A-share backdoor listing this year.

The country's largest homebuilder said it has started a second round of strategic investment fundraising, worth up to 20 billion yuan ($2.91 billion) and expected to be complete in May, as part of a backdoor listing valued at 198 billion yuan.

Evergrande in October said it would inject almost all of its property assets, held by a subsidiary, into ShenZhen Special Economic Zone Real Estate & Properties Group Co Ltd (ShenZhen Real Estate) 000029.SZ.

It later raised 30 billion yuan as part of a first round of fundraising by selling 13.2 percent of shares in the subsidiary. The buyers will eventually be entitled to ShenZhen Real Estate stock when the assets are transferred.

But it is the size of Evergrande's debt, at $78 billion as at the end of 2016, racked up during corporate and land acquisitions, that has captured investor attention.

Last week, Evergrande added to its debt with a $1 billion seven-year bond that sold briskly due to its high yield of 9.5 percent. That followed a $1.5 billion dual tranche issued in the same week.

China Evergrande Group Chairman Hui Ka Yan attends a news conference on the property developer's annual results in Hong Kong, China March 28, 2017.Bobby Yip

"Large debt comes with a large land bank ... Evergrande has the largest land bank in China," Chief Executive Officer Xia Haijun said at an earnings briefing. "As our land bank appreciates, the high debt ratio is without risk."

Xia said Evergrande will repay half of its perpetual capital instrument - high-interest debt "disguised" as equity - in the first half of 2016, and a total of two-thirds by the end of the year. The instrument rose 49 percent last year to 112.9 billion yuan.

It was not the first time Evergrande said it would reduce its perpetual capital instrument. The developer said in 2015 it would repay over 10 billion yuan that year yet the instrument grew larger.

Earnings

Evergrande on Tuesday reported an 89 percent jump in 2016 core profit to 20.81 billion yuan due to a real estate market that saw a strong increase in sales prices and volumes.

Total borrowings rose 80 percent to 535.1 billion yuan. Total cash rose a similar degree to 304.3 billion yuan, providing comfort to shareholders concerned about the debt.

Evergrande shares ended Tuesday 2.9 percent higher, versus a 0.6 percent gain in Hong Kong's benchmark stock index .HSI.

Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Christopher Cushing

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