The Chinese company Country Garden sells its inventory to pay off its debts

Chinese homebuilder Country Garden said on Wednesday it lost $7.1 billion in the first six months of the year, increasing pressure on China’s largest real estate developer as it teeters on the brink of financial collapse.

Country Garden’s losses, and the accompanying cash crunch, represent the latest sign of a deepening crisis in China’s real estate sector, where years of excessive borrowing have left many of the country’s biggest developers awash in debt they are struggling to repay. As China’s economy has slowed in recent months, an already stagnant real estate market has reached a standstill, pushing Country Garden, which has total debt of nearly $187 billion, to the brink.

Country Garden Company’s net loss during the six months amounted to 51.5 billion yuan, compared to a profit of 1.9 billion yuan in the same period last year.

It warned earlier this month that it expected to incur a significant loss, citing an “unprecedented difficult period” for China’s real estate industry.

The company said revenues rose in the first half, but appeared to admit it had reduced real estate to maintain sales volume and ensure “smooth business operations.” Earlier, the company said that contract sales fell by 60 percent in July compared to the previous year.

Country Garden said in a statement that it was surprised by “the depth and persistence of the market’s downward trend.” It also said the company invested disproportionately in properties in smaller cities where the downturn was more severe.

“All these shortcomings have led to the most difficult difficulty the company has faced since its founding,” Country Garden said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the company said it would raise $34 million by issuing new shares. Country Garden said it plans to issue 350.6 million shares at 77 Hong Kong cents per share next week. The proceeds will go to a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Kingboard Holdings Limited, a materials and chemicals manufacturer with a real estate division to which Country Garden owes money.

Country Garden said it owes its subsidiary Kingboard Holdings about $200 million, which will be repaid in installments, with the final payment due in December.

The new shares in Country Garden represent about 1.3 percent of the company’s existing shares. The company is selling the shares at a 15 percent discount to Tuesday’s closing price. Country Garden stock is down 67 percent so far this year.

Last week, Country Garden said it had reached an agreement to sell a 27% stake in a commercial and residential real estate development project in Guangzhou, southern China, for $177 million.

Country Garden, China’s biggest home seller for the past six years, has been hailed as a lucky survivor in China’s turbulent real estate sector. It averted the liquidity crunch that gripped the industry after the government in 2020 limited developers’ ability to borrow money, in an effort to prevent a property bubble. In the past three years, dozens of real estate developers have defaulted, including Evergrande, the now bankrupt developer that once challenged Country Garden for industry supremacy.

But now Country Garden is the company striving to avoid going under. It missed two payments of interest to international bondholders earlier this month. The company has until next week to pay the bondholders, or it will default on its debt. It is also negotiating with creditors to delay repayment of a $350m domestic bond, due later this week, until 2026.

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