Embattled China Evergrande ordered to liquidate by Hong Kong court

Jan 29, 2024


A HONG Kong court on Monday (Jan 29) ordered the liquidation of China Evergrande Group, a move likely to send ripples through China’s crumbling financial markets as policymakers scramble to contain the deepening crisis.

Evergrande, the world’s most indebted developer with more than US$300 billion of total liabilities, sent a struggling property sector into a tailspin when it defaulted on its debt in 2021.

That deepened a debt crisis in the sector and sparked many other company defaults in a damaging economic blow that to this day remains a drag on growth.

A liquidation ruling of the developer which has US$240 billion of assets will likely jolt already fragile Chinese capital and property markets.

Beijing is now grappling with an underperforming economy, its worst property market in nine years and a stock market wallowing near five-year lows, so any fresh hit to markets could further undermine policymakers’ efforts to rejuvenate growth.

The liquidation process could be complicated, with potential political considerations, given the many authorities involved.

But it is expected to have little impact on the company’s operations including home construction projects in the near term, as it could take months or years for the offshore liquidator appointed by the creditors to take control of subsidiaries across mainland China – a different jurisdiction from Hong Kong.

Evergrande had been working on a US$23 billion debt revamp plan with the ad hoc bondholder group for almost two years. Its original plan was scuppered in late September when it said its billionaire founder Hui Ka Yan was under investigation for suspected crimes.

The liquidation petition was first filed in June 2022 by Top Shine, an investor in Evergrande unit Fangchebao which said the developer had failed to honour an agreement to repurchase shares it had bought in the subsidiary.

The proceedings had been adjourned multiple times and Hong Kong High Court Justice Linda Chan has said previously the December hearing would be the last before a decision was made whether to liquidate Evergrande in the absence of a “concrete” restructuring plan.

Before Monday, at least three Chinese developers have been ordered by a Hong Kong court to liquidate since the current debt crisis unfolded in mid-2021.