Country Garden's entire offshore debt will be deemed to be in default if China's largest private property developer fails to make a $15 million coupon payment on Tuesday, the end of a 30-day grace period.
WHAT IS EXPECTED TO HAPPEN NEXT?
A non-payment is expected after Country Garden warned about its inability to meet offshore debt obligations last week. Its dollar bonds are being bid at below 6 cents on the dollar.
Country Garden has appointed Houlihan Lokey, China International Capital Corporation (CICC) and law firm Sidley Austin as advisers to carry out an offshore debt restructuring.
As is common practice, they should start negotiations with bondholders on the restructuring proposals. It could take many months before an agreement is reached.
Bondholders are also in talks with other financial institutions and law firms to form a group to consider their options.
As more Chinese developers move towards restructuring debt, their offshore creditors are expected to be offered less favourable terms amid a worsening outlook for the country's struggling real estate sector.
A default by Country Garden would exacerbate the country's real estate crisis, put more strain on its onshore lenders, and could delay the prospect of a recovery of not only the property market, but the overall Chinese economy.
WHO IS COUNTRY GARDEN?
Until this year, Country Garden was the largest Chinese developer by sales. The company was previously considered financially sound compared with peers such as China Evergrande Group, which defaulted on its debt in late 2021.
Country Garden had total liabilities of 1.4 trillion yuan ($191.46 billion) at the end of June, including nearly $11 billion of offshore bonds and $6 billion of offshore loans.
While Country Garden's liabilities are only 59 percent as big as those of Evergrande, the world's most indebted developer, it has more than 3,000 projects across all China's provinces, compared to around 800 for Evergrande.
Regulators and homebuyers are closely watching whether Country Garden's liquidity stress will make it unable to complete construction projects, which could stir social unrest.
Country Garden has said repeatedly that "home delivery" is its top priority.
HOW BAD IS THE PROPERTY SECTOR CRISIS?
Since the sector's debt crisis unfolded in mid-2021, companies accounting for 40 percent of Chinese home sales have defaulted, most of them private developers. Chinese developers have defaulted on more than $114.6 billion of $175 billion in dollar bonds outstanding since 2021.
That has led to many unfinished homes, unpaid suppliers and creditors that are not only financial institutions but also ordinary folks who bought wealth management products linked to trust financing.
S&P Global Ratings on Monday revised down its forecast for China's property sales to drop by 10 percent -15 percent this year compared to 2022 to around 11.5 trillion yuan-12 trillion yuan. It earlier forecast a mid-single-digit percentage drop. It also said expected 2024 sales to drop by a further 5 percent.
With property sentiment already very weak, home buyers could become even more wary of private developer brands, and home prices in many areas could come under greater pressure if Country Garden resorted to fire sales to raise cash.
Local governments could tighten developers' access to escrow accounts, where presale funds are kept in order to ensure homes can be completed and delivered - a top priority set by Beijing.
This would, in turn, squeeze the sector more and lead to additional defaults, even among state-backed developers.
WILL CENTRAL GOVERNMENT INTERVENE?
Beijing has so far not directly bailed out any private Chinese developer despite some coming to the brink of collapse since the property crisis escalated in 2021, after a regulatory crackdown on developers' accumulation of debt.
With Evergrande now on the brink of collapse after authorities launched a criminal investigation into its billionaire founder, some creditors, investors, and analysts are now betting on authorities stepping in to manage the fallout.
Beijing accelerated efforts to roll out a raft of measures to boost home-buying, including easing some borrowing rules, and relaxing home-purchasing curbs in some cities, after Country Garden signalled liquidity stress in August.
These policies have given major cities such as Beijing a tiny boost in new home sales, but some worry they might be short-lived and say more policies are needed.