- By Nick Marsh
- Asia Business Correspondent
A Hong Kong High Court judge has given crisis-hit Chinese property giant Evergrande one last chance to come up with a new deal over its huge debts or face liquidation.
A winding-up hearing, initially scheduled for Monday, was adjourned to 4 December.
Justice Linda Chan said it would be the last hearing before a decision is made.
Evergrande is the world’s most indebted property developer with more than $325bn (£268.4bn) of total liabilities.
It defaulted on its debts two years ago and has been working on a new repayment plan ever since.
Justice Chan said Evergrande had to come up with a “concrete” proposal otherwise it was likely the company would be wound up. A liquidator would still be able negotiate with creditors, she added.
Evergrande did not immediately respond to a BBC request for comment.
The case was originally brought by Top Shine Global, an investor in Evergrande unit Fangchebao, in June 2022.
It said Evergrande had not honoured an agreement to buy back shares the investor had bought in the business.
Evergrande’s plans to rework its agreements with creditors were dealt a major blow last month when it confirmed that its founder Hui Ka Yan and one of its main subsidiaries were under investigation for suspected criminal activities.
The company also said that it was it barred by Chinese regulators from issuing new dollar bonds, which was a key part of its plan to restructure its debts.
It also cancelled planned votes by creditors on its restructuring plan, which were originally scheduled for late last month.
Most of Evergrande’s debt is owed to people within China, many of whom are ordinary citizens whose homes have not been finished.
When the firm defaulted on its huge debts in 2021, it sent shockwaves through global financial markets as the property sector contributes to roughly a quarter of China’s economy.
Several other of the country’s major real estate firms have defaulted over the past year and many are struggling to find the money to complete developments.
Evergrande now has five weeks to come up with a repayment plan that its creditors agree on, which it has failed to do in the last two years.
Until now, the company’s survival has largely been down to the fact that most of the money it owes is to lenders in China, who have limited legal avenues to recoup their money.
By contrast, creditors outside mainland China are entitled to bring lawsuits against the company. This is what Top Shine has done and this is what could trigger a court liquidation order.
However, liquidation would not resolve the matter cleanly. Analysts say it would complicate the situation substantially.
“Even if offshore creditors manage to get Evergrande liquidated, the prospects of a recovery are still uncertain for them,” said Eveline Danubrata, Asia Managing Editor at REDD Intelligence.
“Most of Evergrande’s assets are in China. So the company will have to juggle multiple local stakeholders, including homebuyers, banks and government officials,” she added.
Apart from deciding which lenders get priority in a liquidation, there is also question of who will finish the homes that more than a million Chinese people are still waiting for Evergrande to hand over.
Ms Danubrata said it is hard to picture a scenario in which foreign creditors receive their money before Chinese homeowners do. Ultimately, any solution will most likely require major cooperation with the Chinese government.
“It will likely be challenging to pursue an onshore enforcement against Evergrande’s assets without some kind of a nod from the relevant authorities,” she said.
Additional reporting by Peter Hoskins