A Chinese property developer, which was seemingly in good financial shape until recently, appeared to default on an offshore bond payment Thursday, raising concerns among international investors with an interest in the country's property market, according to reports.
Kaisa Group Holdings Ltd., which is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, appeared to miss interest payments due Jan. 8 on $500 million of debt held by foreign investors, the Wall Street Journal reported. Although the company has a 30-day grace period after the due date to settle its account, the missed deadline puts it in technical default, analysts cited by the paper said. The company's shares have been suspended from trading on the Hong Kong exchange since December.
The default is the latest in a flurry of negative reports about the Shenzhen-based developer, one of China's smaller publicly-listed real estate firms. The company defaulted on a HK$400 million (approximately U.S. $51 million) loan from HSBC on Dec. 31, following the resignation of its chairman and several key members of its executive team. Analysts cited by the Journal suggested that the company had the cash to pay back the loan, but chose to default so that it could renegotiate terms.
More troubling still is the fact that sales at all of the company's projects in its home city have been suspended or restricted by local authorities. Haitong Securities, in a report issued in December, said that, "clearly, the authorities' move is trying to paralyze the company's entire operations in the city. As Kaisa's hometown, Shenzhen has been the largest contributor of revenue and profit," according to a report from the South China Morning Post.
Some reports claim that the company's now-former chairman, Kwok Ying-shing, was detained by Chinese authorities in connection with an anti-corruption investigation, a claim the company has denied.
A default by the company would be the first one from a home builder in China or semiautonomous Hong Kong. Chinese companies that enter bankruptcy have their assets liquidated by a court and the proceeds are used to pay off domestic stakeholders before offshore investors, Bloomberg reports.
Standard & Poor's this week cut Kaisa's rating by seven notches to selective default, or 'SD', and Moody's lowered its rating to Caa3, with a negative outlook, according to Reuters. The agency added that dollar bonds of other Chinese property developers have seen a severe sell-off, as investors fret about who might be the next borrower to default on a debt obligation.