After 8 years construction, Ocean Flower Island, the artificial archipelago off the north coast of Danzhou in Hainan, was to open as scheduled. The project was being built by the Evergrande Group. Photo: AFP

China’s second-biggest property developer Evergrande saw its shares tumble Friday following reports claiming it was seeking government help to avoid a cash crunch, despite the firm dismissing the claims as “pure defamation.”

China Evergrande Group’s shares fell 9.46% in Hong Kong, closing at HK$13.78 (US$1.78), after an unverified letter circulating on Chinese social media appeared to show the company asking the government in Guangdong for support for a reorganization.

According to the letter, dated August 24, the Shenzhen-based Evergrande had apparently also warned that a failure to complete the reorganization could trigger “a series of systemic risks.”

The company refuted the claims on Thursday, saying: “The relevant documents and pictures are fabricated and are pure defamation.”

It added that it had reported the case to public security authorities and will take legal action.

But disquiet about the group, which was founded by billionaire Xu Jiayin and also owns Chinese football club Guangzhou Evergrande, continued Friday.

Shanghai’s stock exchange briefly suspended trading in Evergrande’s three bonds due to “unusual fluctuations.” 

Rating agency S&P also said it had downgraded China Evergrande’s credit outlook to negative, as the company’s “short-term debt has continued to surge, partly due to its active acquisition of property projects.”

It said Evergrande faces increasing challenges to improve its liquidity because of the sheer size of its debt, but noted the “risk of a liquidity crunch is still low for now.”

Bloomberg reported Friday that Evergrande had won approval from the Hong Kong stock exchange to restructure and spin-off its property management unit, paving the way for the company to raise much-needed capital, citing sources.

Evergrande could seek to raise $1 billion to $2 billion from the offering, depending on market conditions.

AFP

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