Evergrande suspends trading of shares in Hong Kong

Embattled Chinese property developer Evergrande suspended trading in Hong Kong on Monday as the heavily indebted company contends with an ongoing real estate crisis.

Evergrande said in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that its trading halt was pending an “announcement containing inside information,” though it did not elaborate.

The company has about $300 billion in total liabilities, and analysts have worried for months about whether a collapse could trigger a wider crisis in China’s property market, hurting homeowners and the broader financial system. The US Federal Reserve warned last year that trouble in Chinese real estate could damage the global economy.

In December, Fitch Ratings declared that the company had defaulted on its debt, a downgrade the credit ratings agency said reflected Evergrande’s inability to pay interest due that month on two dollar-denominated bonds.

The company’s stock was rattled last week after more debt payment deadlines passed without signs that it had met its obligations, though it reportedly has a 30-day grace period to pay those debts. (Fitch’s downgrade came when Evergrande appeared to miss payments after their grace periods lapsed.)

Evergrande did not respond to a request for comment about its decision to halt shares Monday.

The company has had some other setbacks recently, too. Local media recently reported that authorities in Hainan province — a tropical resort island off the coast of southern China — ordered Evergrande to demolish 39 buildings. The company acknowledged the order in a post on WeChat, noting that it did not affect the plots and buildings of some 61,000 property owners. It added that it would “actively communicate and handle properly in accordance with the guidance of the decision letter.”

While the company’s financial woes have been mounting, it did have some positive news last month, saying it had made initial progress in resuming construction work. The company’s chairman Hui Ka Yan said that no one at the firm would be allowed to “lie flat” and vowed to deliver 39,000 units of properties in December.

That number was a massive jump compared with the fewer than 10,000 units the company had delivered in each of the previous three months.

And, there are signs that Chinese authorities are taking steps to contain fallout from the company’s downward spiral and guide it through a restructuring of its debt and business operations.

Evergrande announced in December it would set up a risk management committee, including government representatives, to focus on “mitigating and eliminating” future risks. Among its members are top officials from major state-owned enterprises in Guangdong, as well as an executive from a major bad debt manager owned by the central government.

The People’s Bank of China also said it would pump $188 billion into the economy, apparently to counter the real estate slump, which accounts for nearly a third of China’s GDP.