Evergrande Former CEO And CFO Arrested As Insolvent Property Giant Misses Payment On $550MM Onshore Bond

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Sep 25, 2023 - 03:08 PM

It has been another stormy day for China's property sector which plunged 7%, erasing all gains since the Nov 2022 lows...

... driven by the latest collapse in (insolvent) Evergrande shares which, after soaring on a furious short squeeze three weeks ago...

... plunged as much as 24% in Hong Kong after the distressed developer canceled key creditor meetings that had been set for this week and said it must reassess its proposed restructuring.

The real estate giant said late Sunday it couldn’t satisfy requirements of the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the National Development and Reform Commission to issue new notes. It cited an investigation of subsidiary Hengda Real Estate Group without elaborating. The unit said in August that CSRC had built a case against it relating to suspected information disclosure violations.

Commenting on the slide, Bloomberg said that Evergrande "is running out of time to get what would be one of the nation’s biggest-ever restructurings back on track, after setbacks in recent days that raise the risk of liquidation."

The string of surprise developments include scrapping key creditor meetings at the last minute, saying it must revisit its restructuring plan, detention of money management unit staff and an inability to meet regulator qualifications to issue new bonds.

That last item is a major setback to its planned restructuring of at least $30 billion of offshore debt that would have creditors swap defaulted notes for new securities. Evergrande’s shares plunged as much as 25% Monday.

The latest sign of trouble (in what has been an endless barrage for the past two years) at Evergrande caused simmering worries about China’s deepening property crisis to flare. As noted above, a Bloomberg index of Chinese property stocks tumbled the most in nine months on Monday, taking its loss in valuation this year to $55 billion. China Aoyuan Group Ltd. slumped by a record after its shares resumed trading, and property investing firm China Oceanwide Holdings Ltd. faced court-ordered liquidation after a Bermuda court issued a winding-up order.

Things went from bad to worse, this morning when Evergrande’s onshore unit effectively redefaulted when it said it missed principal and interest payments of a 4b yuan ($550 million) onshore bond with a put option issued in 2020, according to a Shenzhen stock exchange filing. And while the company assured investors that it will “actively” negotiate with bond holders to reach solutions as soon as possible, it will hardly come as a comfort to the company's other creditors or the property sector in general, which now has nothing but more pain to look forward to.

Two people who certainly have nothing to look forward to any more, are former Evergrande CEO, Xia Haijun, and Pan Darong, a former chief financial officer, both of whom were arrested by Chinese authorities, Caixin reported, without identifying sources.

Both were in charge of Evergrande’s financial operations and resigned in July last year for their alleged involvement in a bank deposit scandal, according to the report. Some more details from the report, which notes that as Evergrande's financial trouble intensifies, pressure has been building for the developer to repay wealth management products sold by the subsidiary to retail investors while trying to complete housing projects across the country. The subsidiary said in an August statement that it had failed to make payments for the month, fueling public outcry.

While the reason for the investigation into Pan is unknown, some sources said it could be linked to his past work on overseeing repayments of the wealth management products.

More than 10 people working for the subsidiary, mainly managerial personnel, including General Manager Du Liang and Deputy General Manager Yao Bencai, have been arrested or detained by police for alleged illegal fundraising by the company.

The funds raised from selling wealth management products had likely been used by Evergrande for property development, the people said.

Xu Tenghe, Evergrande Chairman Xu Jiayin’s second son who also goes by Peter Xu, was the group executive in charge of overseeing the wealth management subsidiary in 2021, when its failure to repay investors led to protests, a person close to the company told Caixin.

In addition, Zhu Jialin, a former chairman of Evergrande Life Assurance Co. Ltd. who now works for Zhongrong Life Insurance Co. Ltd., was detained by authorities on Sept. 17, sources familiar with the issue said. There’s speculation among industry insiders that the probe is connected with Zhu’s Evergrande stint.

As a reminder, in July Evergrande reported a staggering loss of 105.9 billion yuan ($15.7 billion) for 2022, following a loss of 476 billion yuan the previous year. Its total liabilities reached nearly 2.6 trillion yuan at the end of 2021, before falling slightly to around 2.4 trillion yuan a year later.