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The China Evergrande Centre, in Hong Kong, on March 26, 2018.Bobby Yip/Reuters

The editor-in-chief of state-backed Chinese newspaper Global Times warned debt-ridden property giant Evergrande Group that it should not bet on a government bailout on the assumption that it is “too big to fail.”

It was the first commentary to appear in state-backed media casting doubt on a government bailout for the country’s No.2 property developer, whose shares fell on Friday for the fifth consecutive day amid concerns it is heading for default.

Evergrande is scrambling to raise funds to pay its many lenders and suppliers and investors, with regulators warning its $305-billion of liabilities could spark broader risks to the country’s financial system if not stabilized.

Global Times’ editor-in-chief Hu Xijin said on his WeChat social media account on Thursday that Evergrande should turn to the market for salvation, not the government.

He said Evergrande’s potential bankruptcy was unlikely to trigger a systemic financial storm like the collapse of Lehman Brothers, because it was a real estate business not a bank and down payment ratios on property in China were very high.

Global Times is a nationalistic tabloid published by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily. Its views do not necessarily reflect the official thinking of policy-makers.

Policy-makers are telling Evergrande’s major lenders to extend interest payments or rollover loans, and market watchers increasingly think a direct bailout from the government is unlikely.

A group of Evergrande’s offshore bondholders has selected investment bank Moelis & Co and law firm Kirkland & Ellis as advisers on a potential restructuring of a tranche of bonds, focusing on around $20-billion in outstanding dollar bonds in the event of non-payment, sources told Reuters.

Evergrande is due to pay $83.5-million interest on Sept. 23 for its March 2022 bond. It has another $47.5-million interest payment due on Sept. 29 for the March 2024 notes. The bonds would default if Evergrande fails to pay the interest within 30 days.

The debacle of Evergrande – which has more than 1,300 real estate projects in over 280 cities – is dampening the yuan and confidence in Chinese assets more broadly.

Evergrande shares fell another 13 per cent to HK$2.28 on Friday, the lowest level since Oct 2011. Its offshore Oct 2023 bond fell 10 per cent to 16.125 cents China Minsheng Banking Corp, one of Evergrande’s major lenders, dropped 4.6 per cent to a record low of HK$2.80.

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