Business / Companies

Big Evergrande shopping spree is not slowing down

(China Daily) Updated: 2016-09-01 10:21

China Evergrande Group's debt-fueled expansion spree shows no signs of slowing down.

Even as soaring interest payments and marketing costs ate into first-half profit, a top executive at the Chinese developer said late on Tuesday that the company wants to acquire brokerage and trust companies as well as smaller rivals-deals that would add to about $6 billion of purchases since the start of 2016.

Evergrande, which made a surprise entry in August into the bidding war for the country's largest homebuilder-China Vanke Co-also signaled it may invest in other listed companies.

Billionaire Chairman Hui Ka Yan's strategy of debt-funded dealmaking has befuddled analysts and left Evergrande with a credit rating that's among the lowest of large Chinese developers.

Moody's Investor's Service, which in January cut the company's notes to a "high risk" rank of B3, last month reiterated its negative outlook, citing high leverage. Tuesday's earnings report may do little to allay concerns about its balance sheet, with debt soaring 28 percent to 381.3 billion yuan ($57.1 billion) in the first half and interest payments tripling.

The developer said it will also work on expanding its land banks in the second half to meet sales targets, and pursue "cost-effective" ways to add to projects, such as mergers and acquisitions.

"Growth wouldn't have been as high had Evergrande not been aggressive in the last two years," Chief Executive Officer Xia Haijun told reporters in Hong Kong on Tuesday, referring to the company's purchases of land banks. "We would have missed out."

Evergrande shares slumped as much as 4.7 percent on Wednesday to HK$5.49, the most since June 24. The stock has declined almost 19 percent this year, compared with an 11 percent increase in the Hang Seng Properties Index. Its $1 billion-12 percent notes, due in 2020, fell 0.5 cents on the dollar to 111.8 cents as of 9:36 am in Hong Kong, the lowest in more than two weeks, according to Bloomberg-compiled pricing.

The Guangzhou-based developer reported core profit, or profit excluding property revaluations and foreign-exchange losses, fell 23 percent to 7.8 billion yuan in the first half, from 10.2 billion yuan a year earlier, according to a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Marketing costs jumped more than 51 percent as the company said it embarked on nationwide "brand publicity activities."

The higher costs were offset by surging property sales, with contracted sales jumping 63 percent to 141.8 billion yuan. The developer has pledged to exceed its 300 billion yuan target for pre-sales contracts this year, a goal that's the highest among mainland builders amid a turnaround in China's housing market.


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