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China Evergrande Bond Payment Remains Uncertain

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The deadline passed without a word, with no sign that the closely watched-for payment had been made, so investors did what they have done for months to the troubled Chinese property giant with loads of debt and few solutions: They sold.

Shares of China Evergrande Group fell nearly 12 percent on Friday, as a Thursday deadline to make an $83 million interest payment passed without any word from the company about whether it had met its commitments.

One bondholder, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter, said the company had not made the payment. But that lack of payment did not necessarily put the company in default. The company’s debt covenants provide it with a 30-day grace period before the missed payment results in a default, the person said, meaning debt holders could be facing a month in limbo.

China Evergrande’s financial troubles have roiled global markets, though they steadied near the end of this week as investors came around to Beijing’s contention that it could contain any crisis.

The concern extends to property owners and policymakers in China who would face the fallout of a possible default. A steady flow of negative news from Evergrande has prompted panic in markets and raised fears of the possible economic contagion — including outside China — should the company collapse. Unable to sell off parts of its corporate sprawl or raise fresh cash through the sale of new properties, Evergrande is also facing angry suppliers, home buyers and employees, some of whom have protested and demanded their money.

The tension in global financial markets has eased more recently, in part as Chinese officials stepped in to shore up confidence — including by pumping billions of dollars of capital into the country’s banking system — and also after several bank executives and central bank officials outside China said the impact on institutions in the United States and Europe should be minimal.

On another key question for investors, whether China will directly bail Evergrande out, so far Beijing has remained tight-lipped while emphasizing that no Chinese company is too big to fail.

It helped that Evergrande said on Wednesday that it had reached a deal with investors over a different payment due for mainland Chinese bondholders.

Given that development, Houze Song, a research fellow at the Paulson Institute in Chicago, said Evergrande was likely to make Thursday’s interest payment eventually. He said bondholders and Evergrande may ultimately work through a near-term agreement that involves debt holders loosing a portion on their Evergrande exposure.

Evergrande’s fate and what its failure could mean for China’s economy have divided some of the world’s best-known investors. The billionaire investor George Soros recently argued that an Evergrande collapse would set off a broader economic crash, while another billionaire investor, Ray Dalio, argued this week that an Evergrande default was “manageable.”

Investors in the dollar-denominated debt include the Swiss bank UBS, the asset manager BlackRock, the British bank HSBC Holdings, as well as a number of hedge funds. The bonds are linked to various private and public companies that are part of Evergrande but distinct from its core property business, including an electric-vehicle division. Those businesses could still have value even if the real-estate arm collapses.

Despite the lingering uncertainty, stock investors seem to expect a better outcome from Evergrande debacle than they did earlier in the week. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 closed up more than 1 percent, recouping its sharp losses from earlier in the week — in part as executives at two of Evergrande’s debtholders downplayed the risk.

Ralph Hamers, the chief executive of UBS, said at an investor conference on Thursday that the bank’s direct exposure to Evergrande is “immaterial,” adding that its troubles have “not been keeping me up at night,” according to a transcript from the software firm Sentieo.

Noel Quinn, the chief executive of HSBC, acknowledged at the same conference that Evergrande’s challenges might seep further into the equity and credit markets.

“I’d be naïve to think that the turmoil in the market doesn’t have the potential to have second-order and third-order impact,” he said, calling the Evergrande situation “concerning.”

A representative for BlackRock declined to comment.

Central bankers outside China have also downplayed the risk this week. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, described Evergrande’s troubles as “particular to China” during a press briefing, and on Thursday, Sam Woods, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, told Reuters that the exposure of British banks and insurance companies to Evergrande is “not material.”



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