6 hours ago
By Clare Jim and Denny Thomas
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese developer Agile Property Holdings Ltd 3383.HK , battling an industry slowdown and media speculation about ties to China s former security chief, said it was in talks with banks about extending what remains of a 5 million (294.74 million pounds) loan due in December.
Shares in the company, which is valued at around .1 billion, dropped by more than a fifth on Monday as they resumed trading after a week s halt. The company last week scrapped a proposed 0 million rights issue - which would have gone towards repaying the loan - and said its billionaire founder and chairman Chen Zhou Lin had been detained.
Agile said Chen - whose family wealth of .2 billion was ranked 51st in China on the 2014 Hurun Rich list - had been required by the prosecutor in Kunming City in southeast China to stay at a designated residence since late on Sept 30.
Chinese property companies face tight credit and excess supply as growth in the world s second-largest economy slows. Weaker sales have choked liquidity at some property developers, pushing them to look for fresh sources of funding.
On a call with analysts on Monday, Agile said it was in talks with banks including HSBC Holdings , Standard Chartered and Hang Seng Bank 0011.HK about extending the loan.
Agile, which is currently being run by Chen s wife and another relative, said it would consider other funding options including another try at a rights offer, other forms of equity financing or commercial property sales.
Shareholders commitment will be ready within one or two days. So you can rest assured the committed shareholders will continue to support the company. Financially they re very sound, so don t worry, Chief Financial Officer Sam Cheung said on the call.
Agile has not said why Chen was detained, but noted on Monday s call that three plots of land it bought in Yunnan province - part of a 3 billion yuan (303.93 million pounds) investment - were acquired through proper auctions. Kunming is the Yunnan provincial capital.
In a statement early last week, Agile said online allegations linking the company with Zhou Yongkang, the country s former domestic security chief and the highest-profile figure caught up in Beijing s crackdown on corruption, were entirely groundless and totally fabricated.
Agile s bond yields jumped last week amid the speculation as to why the company halted trading in its shares. Agile has over billion worth of bonds outstanding, and liquidity risks have been elevated since its first-half accounts showed short-term debt of 14.7 billion yuan was far in excess of the 1.3 billion yuan it had as a free-to-use cash balance on June 30.
The bonds now yield 15-20 percent, up from 7-9 percent a week ago, according to data from Tradeweb. Credit analysts warned the bonds were unlikely to recoup all their losses.
It will be better for the company if the chairman is released in a week or two without charges. Even then, the bond yields may not go back to the previous 4-7 percent, but settle somewhere in the middle, said Dilip Parameswaran, Hong Kong-based CEO at Asia Credit Advisors. Overall, Agile will have to curtail land purchases and conserve cash to focus on repaying debt.
He added that Agile may find it more difficult to issue bonds as investors would be nervous about any corporate governance issues potentially related to Chen s detention. There could be lingering fears that this is only the tip of the iceberg, he said, noting Agile had enough land to sell to generate liquidity. I don t think it s a default candidate.
Agile s 8.25 percent perpetual bond currently trades at 68/70 cents on the dollar, down from 84/85 over the week and 90 in August.
On Monday, Agile said the news of its chairman s detention had not impacted its business, and it recorded sales of more than 2 billion yuan during the Golden Week holiday period.
(Additional reporting by Umesh Desai; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)
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