Big Shanghai developer defaults, deals new blow to ailing Chinese real estate

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Another major Chinese developer has defaulted on its debt, dealing a new blow to the ailing real estate sector in the world’s second largest economy, media reports said.

Shanghai-based Shimao Group failed to pay the interest and principal on a $1 billion bond due Sunday, according to a company filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange, CNN reported.

The bond had no grace period for the principal, according to its offering document.

It is the first missed debt repayment on a dollar bond by Shimao, which has been grappling with mounting financial stress for months.

China’s real estate sector has been lurching from one crisis to another since 2020, when Beijing started cracking down on excessive borrowings by developers in a bid to rein in their high debt and curb runaway housing prices, CNN reported.

The problems escalated significantly last fall when Evergrande — the second largest property developer in China — began scrambling to raise cash to repay lenders. The embattled firm is China’s most indebted property developer with some $300 billion in liabilities. It was labeled a defaulter by Fitch Ratings in December.

According to Moody’s estimates earlier this year, Shimao Group has a large amount of debt maturing in 2022, including $1.7 billion worth of bonds held by international investors, 8.9 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) worth of bonds held by Chinese investors, and “sizable” offshore bank loans, CNN reported.

Founded by entrepreneur Hui Wing Mau in 2001, Shimao develops large-scale residential projects and hotels across the country. It owns Shanghai Shimao International Plaza, one of the tallest skyscrapers located in the heart of Shanghai.

In March, the company estimated that its 2021 net profit had plunged about 62% from a year earlier, mainly because of the “harsh” environment facing the property sector. It then delayed the release of its 2021 results, citing the lockdowns in Shanghai.

“Due to the significant changes to the macro environment of the property sector in China since the second half of 2021 and the impact of Covid-19, the Group has experienced a noticeable decline in its contracted sales in recent months, which is expected to continue in the near term until the property sector in China stabilizes,” Shimao said in the filing on Sunday.

Since Evergrande’s insolvency, a series of high-profile developers in the country have defaulted on their debts, including Fantasia and Kaisa, CNN reported.

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