September 1, 2017 / 4:20 AM / in a year

UPDATE 2-Chinese developer Sunac says to slash huge debt figures

* To cut net gearing to 70 pct by 2019 from 260 pct in H1

* Expects H2 sales at 200 billion yuan

* To invest at least 7 more Wanda tourism projects

* Says Wanda projects earnings accretive through 2019 (Add executive comments, debt position, context)

By Clare Jim

HONG KONG, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Property developer Sunac China Holdings Ltd said on Friday it will slow the rate of land purchases to boost profit and slash its debt ratio, after massive acquisitions attracted attention from a government bent on reducing corporate debt.

The Tianjin-based developer aims to cut net gearing to 70 percent by the end of 2019 from 260 percent at the end of June - a figure analysts said would be as high as 394 percent if Sunac re-classified perpetual bonds as debt rather than equity.

“We have been developing too fast in the past; our next step is to slow down the land bank ... In the past too many expenses and fees have eaten into our profit,” Vice President Gao Xi said at an earnings conference. “We will focus on profitability and then the gearing will come down.”

In January-June, Sunac’s land bank grew 36 percent from end of last year, mainly through acquisitions of smaller firms.

The comment follows similar action by peer Evergrande, and comes as the government works to reduce corporate debt and prevent property prices rising too quickly, to preserve growth in the world’s second-largest economy.

It increased scrutiny of Sunac’s debt load following a string of high-profile deals, driving the developer seek funds offshore, including through selling U.S. dollar-denominated bonds and conducting a private share placement.

Chief Executive Wang Mengde on Friday said all financing channels are normal, and that banks continue to grant new loans.

Sunac bought 91 percent of 13 tourism projects in July from conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group for $6.5 billion, in a deal that will likely widen its debt ratio in the second half of the year. It said the projects will be earnings accretive through 2019.

Sunac also plans to buy lower stakes in at least seven more Wanda tourism projects, Chairman Sun Hongbin said on Friday.

Other major deals this year include $2.2 billion invested in cash-strapped technology conglomerate LeEco. Asked about the investment, Sun said he was determined to help turn around a company founded by a “true entrepreneur”.

Sunac said it had 80 billion yuan ($12.16 billion) in cash as at the end of August, and expected to exceed 100 billion yuan by year-end as sales increase in the second half of the year.

It expects July-December sales of 200 billion yuan, versus 109 billion yuan in the previous six months.

On Thursday, Sunac reported a 204 percent rise in January-June core profit, which excludes revaluation gains, to 1.37 billion yuan due to wider profit margins. Net profit rose 1,683 percent. ($1 = 6.5812 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Clare Jim and Donny Kwok; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Christopher Cushing

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