| 24 July 2024, Wednesday |

Country Garden debt deal, China property support measures trigger relief rally

Country Garden’s (2007.HK) deal with creditors to extend onshore debt payments by 3.9 billion yuan ($537 million) raised shares in the developer on Monday, delivering much-needed respite to China’s crisis-hit property sector.

The stock of Country Garden soared as much as 19% to its highest level since August 10 and was on course for the largest one-day percentage rise since November. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng mainland property index (.HSMPI) surged by more than 9%.

While investors may be breathing a sigh of relief, it remains to be seen if a slew of government stimulus measures can soon help stimulate demand, alleviate the sector’s liquidity crunch, and reduce the gloom over the entire financial system.

Beijing on Monday added to its series of policy measures in recent months to revive the world’s second-largest economy, approving the setting up of a special bureau to promote the development and growth of the private economy.

The private sector is responsible for 80% of new urban jobs, but has struggled to attract investment amid a frail economic recovery over the first half of the year, with business owners also constrained by weak domestic demand.

The worsening financial woes of Country Garden have only further highlighted the fragile state of the country’s real estate industry which accounts for roughly a quarter of the economy and has been in dire debt straits since 2021.

Considered financially sound compared to peers, China’s top private developer had not missed a debt payment obligation, onshore or offshore, until coupon payments on dollar bonds last month after slowing home demand hurt its cash flow.

Since then, Chinese authorities have rolled out a number of measures, the most significant being the lowering of existing mortgage rates and preferential loans for first-home purchases in big cities.

“We will see in the coming months if these supply-side measures are able to revive homebuying demand, which is crucial for the fate of China’s developers and their ability to handle their upcoming debt maturities,” said Tara Hariharan, managing director at global macro hedge fund NWI Management in New York.

She noted that Country Garden and other developers face payments for sizeable maturities this year.

In the deal reached after a vote on its proposal late on Friday, Country Garden is now allowed to repay the onshore debt in instalments over three years, instead of meeting its obligations by Sept. 2.

  • Reuters