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The logo of Chinese developer Country Garden, in Tianjin, China, on Aug. 18.TINGSHU WANG/Reuters

Chinese developers Sunac and Country Garden brought some relief to the crisis-hit property sector by forging debt deals with creditors, but the outlook remained clouded by uncertainty about a recovery in home sales.

Shares in Sunac China Holdings surged as much as 14 per cent early on Tuesday after creditors approved its US$9-billion offshore debt restructuring plan, the first green light of such a debt overhaul by a major Chinese developer.

The stock, however, gave up all its gains to close down 4.3 per cent after reports, citing court documents, showed Sunac had filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection under Chapter 15.

Under the U.S. bankruptcy code, the move shields non-U.S. companies which are undergoing restructurings from creditors that hope to sue them or tie up assets in the United States. The step is seen as procedural in large offshore debt restructuring processes.

China Evergrande Group, which is seeking to restructure a total of US$31.7-billion in one of the largest such exercises in the world, also sought protection under Chapter 15 last month.

Separately, cash-starved Country Garden won approval from creditors to extend repayment on another onshore bond, the last of eight bonds it has been seeking extensions for, two sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The developments come as Beijing steps up efforts to revive the property sector, which accounts for roughly a quarter of the world’s second-largest economy, with a raft of support measures unveiled over the past few weeks.

Two of its offshore bondholders, however, said they hadn’t received US$15-million coupon payments due Monday as of Tuesday morning in Asia, adding to concerns about its cash flows and ability to meet other repayment obligations.

If the country’s largest private developer fails to pay the coupon before the grace period ends in mid-October, the principal will become due and any failure to service will trigger cross-default terms.

Country Garden’s shares closed down 2.9 per cent in Hong Kong. It did not reply to a Reuters request for comment.

Meanwhile, Sunac said late on Monday that creditors holding 98.3 per cent of the total value of the bonds had approved the restructuring plan proposed and agreed to by some creditors in March.

The developer will seek approval of the plan by a Hong Kong court at a hearing scheduled for Oct. 5.

As part of the restructuring terms, a portion of its debt would be exchanged into convertible bonds backed by its Hong Kong-listed shares along with new notes with maturities of between two and nine years.

“I will treat it as a positive. … We haven’t seen much progress on the offshore market, so this shows at least some Chinese developers are trying to reach an agreement,” said Gary Ng, senior economist at Natixis Corporate and Investment Bank.

If the plan can be implemented well, and depending on whether the recovery of China’s property market can generate sufficient cash flows, investors will be able to get something back, he added.

While Sunac is among a string of Chinese developers that have defaulted on their offshore debt obligations since an unprecedented liquidity crisis hit the property sector in 2021, Country Garden has not defaulted on bond payments yet.

The latest debt agreements with creditors will give some breathing room to Chinese developers and help them avoid default or a messy liquidation process, but the success of the agreements will depend on a recovery in the property sector.

Some offshore bondholders say they do not have many options apart from agreeing to debt restructuring proposals, given their returns will likely be very low if they choose to liquidate a cash-strapped developer.

Even as Beijing implements measures to prop up the sector, house prices have continued to decline. The latest data show new home prices in August fell at their fastest pace in 10 months, while falls in real estate investment and sales deepened.

ANZ senior China economist Betty Wang said the support measures could spur some “genuine demand” especially ahead of the traditional sale season during late September/early October in top-tier cities.

“However, the pace and the extent of such a turnaround will be much smaller than in previous cycles,” she said in a report published on Tuesday.

“It’s also questionable whether it will kick off a sustainable rebound, especially considering the uncertain job outlook, deteriorating income inflows, a shift in expectations, and potential increase in housing supply in the long-term.”

Beyond property, recent Chinese economic data show factory output and retail sales grew at a faster pace in August, suggesting that a spate of recent measures to shore up the economy are starting to bear fruit.

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