Hong Kong court orders Chinese property developer Evergrande to liquidate

Hong Kong court orders Chinese property developer Evergrande to liquidate

A Hong Kong court on Monday ordered the liquidation of property company China Evergrande Group, a move likely to send ripples through China’s crumbling financial markets as policy-makers scramble to contain the deepening crisis.

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

The decision was made by Hong Kong Justice Linda Chan, who said “enough is enough” after Evergrande had failed to offer efficient communications or resolutions over more than 18 months.

The company’s shares were trading down as much as 20 per cent before the hearing. Trading was halted in China Evergrande and its listed subsidiaries after the verdict.

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

A person on a scooter rides past a construction site.
A person rides a scooter past the construction site of an Evergrande housing complex in Zhumadian, in central China’s Henan province, in September 2021. (Jade Gao/AFP/Getty Images)

Beijing is 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 policy-makers’ 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 than Hong Kong.

Evergrande had been working on a $23 billion US 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.

An aerial view shows tall residential buildings.
The Evergrande logo is seen on residential buildings in Nanjing, in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, in August 2023. (AFP/Getty Images)

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 Chan has said previously that the December hearing would be the last before a decision was made on whether to liquidate Evergrande in the absence of a “concrete” restructuring plan.

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

WATCH | Why Evergrande matters: 

Jia Wang, Director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, explains why Evergrande is a big risk for China’s entire housing market and broader economy.

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