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China debt crunch

Evergrande seeks more time from offshore creditors for restructuring

Embattled property group urges bondholders to stop short of 'radical' legal action

An Evergrande sign is seen at an unfinished theme park in Evergrande Cultural Tourism City in China's Jiangsu Province on Oct. 22.   © Reuters

HONG KONG (Reuters) -- China Evergrande Group on Monday sought more time from its offshore bondholders to work on a "comprehensive" and "effective" debt restructuring plan, amid signs Beijing is tightening control over the cash-strapped property group.

Evergrande, once China's top selling real estate developer, has more than $300 billion in liabilities, including nearly $20 billion of international bonds all deemed to be in default after a run of missed payments late last year.

Last week, a group of Evergrande's offshore creditors said they were ready to take "all necessary actions" to defend their rights if the company did not show more urgency to resolve a default.

Evergrande on Monday urged bondholders to refrain from taking "radical legal actions" and that it looked forward to communicating with various overseas creditors to formulate a debt restructuring plan.

The company needs further studies and evaluation before entering into communication with the creditors, it said in a statement on its website.

"The board, the risk management committee and the entire company are sparing no effort ... to formulate a comprehensive, detailed and effective debt restructuring plan to protect the legal rights of all parties," Evergrande said.

Evergrande's shares rose earlier on Monday after it named two new board members, including Liang Senlin, chairman of China Cinda (HK) Holdings Company Limited, a unit of China Cinda Asset Management - one of the country's four biggest state asset managers.

Evergrande set up a risk management committee last month, mostly comprising senior officials from state entities including China Cinda Asset Management.

Evergrande's assets are expected to be taken over by state-owned firms in a restructuring led by the provincial government of Guangdong, where the developer is based, and the naming of an official from a unit of a state asset manager to its board could signal the restructuring was moving forward.

The other new board member was Siu Shawn, chairman of China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group Limited, a business the parent company plans to prioritise.

Evergrande's shares also drew support from a Friday report by Financial intelligence provider REDD that said the Guangdong provincial government was aiming to release a framework debt restructuring plan by March.

It plans to separate the company's offshore assets and sell them to pay off foreign debt, the REDD report said.

Evergrande has not responded to requests for comment on the report.

The developer's stock ended the day up nearly 4%.

Regulatory curbs on borrowing have driven China's property sector into crisis, highlighted by Evergrande, which was once the country's top-selling developer, but is now the world's most indebted property company.

Beijing has taken steps to restore stability, including making it easier for state-backed developers to buy up distressed assets of indebted private firms, a source said.

Guangzhou-based Agile said on Monday it sold its 26.7% stake in a mixed-use complex to one of the joint-venture partners, state-owned developer China Overseas Land (COLI) , for 1.84 billion yuan ($291 million).

The complex is Guangzhou Asian Games City, and COLI owned 20% interest in it before the purchase.

Shimao, which holds a 26.7% stake in the same complex, is also trying to sell its stake to COLI, local media Cailianshe reported. Shimao did not respond to a request for comment.

Agile Group and Shimao Group ended up 7.4% and 0.2% respectively. The Hang Seng Mainland Properties sub-index edged up 0.6%.

Last week, Shimao said it had sold commercial land in Shanghai for 1.06 billion yuan to a company owned by the Shanghai municipal government to reduce debt.

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