The collapse of China’s massive property bubble is under way and it is wreaking havoc as significant amounts of the debt raised by Chinese property builders is from offshore investors.
Because of (well-founded) concerns on how Chinese Mainland courts would treat foreign concerns, most of these agreements have historically been conducted under Hong Kong law. As a result, foreign creditors have (understandably) hauled their deadbeat Chinese property builder debtors to court there.
While the judgements (especially from Linda Chan, the subject of this Bloomberg article) are unsurprisingly against the Chinese property builders (who have been slow to release credible debt restructuring plans), the big question remains whether the Mainland Chinese government will actually enforce these rulings. It certainly would make life harder on (at least until recently very well-connected) Chinese property builders at a moment of weakness in the sector.
But, failure to do so would also hurt the Chinese government’s goal of encouraging more foreign investment: after all, why would you invest in a country where you can’t trust the legal paper?
Never before has there been such a wave of Chinese corporate defaults on bonds sold to foreign investors. And never in recent memory has a bankruptcy judge in Hong Kong, the de-facto home for such cases, earned a reputation for holding deadbeat companies to account quite like Chan.
Chan, 54, has displayed an unwavering determination to give creditors a fair shot at recouping as much of their money as they can. One morning in early May, she shocked the packed courtroom by suddenly ordering the liquidation of Jiayuan. She had peppered the company’s lawyers that day as they tried, unsuccessfully, to explain why they needed more time to iron out their debt restructuring proposal.
And then, late last month, Chan put lawyers for Evergrande, the most indebted developer of them all, on notice: Either turn over a concrete restructuring proposal in five weeks or face the same fate as Jiayuan.
The Hong Kong Judge Who Puts Fear Into China’s Deadbeat Builders
Dorothy Ma and Alice Huang | Bloomberg