China Evergrande to sell US$1.5b stake in Shengjing Bank to state firm

Cash-strapped China Evergrande (3333.HK) said on Wednesday it plans to sell a 9.99 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion) stake it owns in Shengjing Bank Co Ltd (2066.HK) to a state-owned asset management company as it scrambles to raise funds.

Shengjing Bank had demanded that all net proceeds from the disposal be applied to settle the relevant financial liabilities of the group due to Shengjing Bank, Evergrande said.

That requirement suggests that Evergrande, which missed a bond interest payment last week, will be unable to use the funds for other purposes such as another interest payment to offshore bondholders of US$47.5 million due on Wednesday.

The payment deadline is being closely watched by investors as the developer’s next big test in public markets.

Evergrande has rapidly become China’s biggest corporate headache as it teeters between a messy meltdown with far-reaching impacts, a managed collapse or the less likely prospect of a bailout by Beijing.

The 1.75 billion shares, representing 19.93 percent of the issued share capital of the bank, will be sold for 5.70 yuan apiece to Shenyang Shengjing Finance Investment Group Co Ltd, a state-owned enterprise involved in capital and asset management, China Evergrande said in a filing to the Hong Kong bourse.

Shenyang Shengjing’s stake in the bank will be increased to 20.79 percent after the deal to become the bank’s largest shareholder.

“The company’s liquidity issue has adversely affected Shengjing Bank in a material way,” Evergrande Chairman Hui Ka Yan said in the statement.

“The introduction of the purchaser, being a state-owned enterprise, will help stabilise the operations of Shengjing Bank and at the same time, help increase and maintain the value of the 14.75 percent interest in Shengjing Bank retained by the company.”

Beijing is prodding government-owned firms and state-backed property developers to purchase some of embattled China Evergrande Group’s assets, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters this week.

Its stake in the bank would be reduced to 14.75 percent from 34.5 percent. – Reuters

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