Hong Kong Court Orders Evergrande Liquidation, Sparking Fears of Systemic Contagion
A Hong Kong court has ordered the liquidation of Chinese property development giant, Evergrande, following a failed 18 month long debt re-negotiation process. The forced liquidation, which was handed down Monday morning, makes Evergrande the world’s most indebted property developer with liabilities totalling an estimated US$300 billion.
The liquidation order has sparked fears globally that China’s already weak economy may be on the brink of a major downturn with serious implications for traditional as well as crypto markets.
Liquidation Follows Attempted Debt Restructure
As reported by The Guardian, the presiding judge Justice Linda Chan said in her decision to order the liquidation of Evergrande: “it is time for the court to say enough is enough.”
The decision followed an 18 month long attempted debt restructuring process, which began in June 2022 after Evergrande investor, Top Shine, lodged a liquidation petition with Hong Kong courts alleging the property developer had failed to honour an agreement to repurchase shares.
The liquidation process is expected to be long and complicated, taking many years, and for now Evergrande’s day-to-day operations will likely continue as normal.
It’s anticipated that foreign Evergrande shareholders, including those in Hong Kong, will never see any financial returns as a result of the liquidation process.
Developer Forced To Liquidate After Years Of Financial Turmoil
Once mainland China’s second largest property developer, Evergrande’s unravelling has been something of a slow moving train wreck with years of financial turmoil leading to yesterday’s forced liquidation order.
The property giant’s financial woes began in 2021 when its enormous debts, estimated at the time to be in the range of hundreds of billions of dollars, contributed to the Chinese Property Sector Crisis. Trading in Evergrande stock was suspended in 2022 as the Chinese government stepped in to attempt to restructure the company.
In August 2023, Evergrande filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy in the United States in order to protect it from creditors, and later that month when trading resumed in Hong Kong its stock plummeted 79%.
Following yesterday’s liquidation order, Evergrande’s stock has tumbled a further 20% and trading has once again been halted.
Concerns For Global Markets Increase
The liquidation of Evergrande has increased fears China’s already stumbling economy may be on the brink of a major crisis, with its property market the worst it’s been in almost a decade, a stock market at five-year lows and a government already taking serious steps to intervene. Being the world’s second largest economy, a financial collapse in China would have enormous implications for economies globally.
At this stage it’s not clear what impact this liquidation might have, since Evergrande has been in trouble so long it’s possible its collapse has already been at least partially priced into global markets. At the time of writing the NASDAQ and S&P 500 were both up slightly.
If we do eventually see panic on global TradFi markets, it could go one of two ways for crypto — either crypto markets could mirror the losses, as we saw at the start of the COVID pandemic, or we could see a flight into Bitcoin as a store of value, potentially boosting crypto markets.
There is some reason to be optimistic about crypto in 2024: it’s a bitcoin halving year which has traditionally been bullish for crypto, and interest rates in the US are expected to ease. But for now, uncertainty remains high.