Exclusive: Evergrande eyes onshore assets as sweetener for offshore debt restructuring

The company logo is seen on the headquarters of China Evergrande Group in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China September 26, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song

HONG KONG, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Property developer China Evergrande Group (3333.HK) plans to use domestic assets as sweeteners to win offshore creditor approval for a long-awaited debt-restructuring proposal, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Evergrande, engulfed by $300 billion in liabilities, aims to start negotiating restructuring terms next month and is combing through onshore assets to offer as additional credit enhancement to holders of its U.S. dollar-denominated bonds, the people said.

Once China's top-selling property developer, Evergrande has been at the centre of a deepening property debt crisis that has seen multiple developers default on offshore debt obligations over the past year, leaving many negotiating debt restructuring.

With developers struggling to find funding to finish projects and pay suppliers, the government last week issued financial institutions with a number of directives to ease the liquidity crunch, such as granting loan repayment extensions.

Evergrande's $22.7 billion worth of offshore debt, including loans and private bonds, is deemed to be in default after missed payment obligations late last year. With few fresh funding options and slowing property sales, Evergrande this year began one of China's biggest debt-restructuring processes.

Chinese developers including Evergrande - the world's most indebted - typically have few assets abroad that can be used in offshore debt restructuring. If the plan to use onshore assets materialises and is accepted by offshore bondholders, Evergrande would be the first Chinese developer to use those assets to raise the investment recovery prospects of such creditors.

Evergrande will sign non-disclosure agreements with bondholders this month to prepare for negotiation next month, with terms to be finalised early next year, said one of the people, who declined to be identified as they were not authorised to talk to the media.

Evergrande declined to comment.

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Evergrande in July gave a restructuring update thin on detail but confirming a Reuters report that it would offer offshore creditors asset packages that may include shares in two Hong Kong-listed units as a sweetener.

It said it expected due diligence work on the group to be completed soon after the update, and aimed to announce a specific restructuring plan before year-end.

The goal was to present a proposal with the approval of key creditors by November, a person familiar with the plan told Reuters at the time.

Evergrande and bondholders are now trying to determine what onshore assets could be offered as credit enhancement, the two people said.

Finding such assets will be challenging considering Evergrande has pledged most of its assets to onshore creditors and parties such as local governments, said a third person close to the developer.

Offshore, its major assets in Hong Kong have been taken over by creditors.

One more challenge is a winding-up petition filed by an investor in June which, if successful, could upend Evergrande's restructuring plan by diminishing the value of its overseas assets. The developer plans to apply for an adjournment in the next hearing on Nov. 28th, one of the people said.

Reporting by Clare Jim; Additional reporting by Xie Yu and Julie Zhu; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Christopher Cushing

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