Shares of China Evergrande were suspended on Thursday after a report that its chairman Hui Ka Yan had been put under police surveillance.
Trading in the group’s property service unit and its electric vehicle division were also suspended.
The Hong Kong Stock Exchange gave no reason for the suspensions, however news on Wednesday that the group founder and chairman was being monitored by authorities amplified concern over the developer’s future as it faces a growing threat of liquidation.
The China Evergrande shares have plunged by over 40% this week as the debt-laden conglomerate’s future darkened. Shares of other troubled developers such as Country Garden have also suffered serious falls.
Evergrande is in a hole so deep, commentators are saying it can never recover, and that Hui Ka Yan (aka Xu Jiayin) will be lucky to avoid jail, while the group’s collapse could cause serious financial contagion.
The group has debts of about 2.4 trillion yuan ($329 billion), plus obligations to deliver several hundred thousand apartments to buyers, while its liquidity crunch – caused by a lack of sales – mean it has been unable to make overdue payments to investors in its wealth management unit.
Official investigations have also stopped the group from issuing new notes or meeting with creditors to amend its restructuring plan, which needs to be completed by October 30.
Staff from the group’s wealth management unit and multiple current and former executives have been caught up in a probe into “whether the embattled conglomerate has violated rules over how funds can be used”, according to Caixin, the local financial news-site.
The group’s Shenzhen-listed subsidiary, Hengda Real Estate, is also being investigated by the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission on whether it broke information disclosure regulations.
Evergrande’s precarious position was signalled in mid-August when it filed for bankruptcy protection via at a court in New York. An affiliate, Tianji Holdings, also sought Chapter 15 protection in August from the Manhattan bankruptcy court.
Two weeks ago, China’s regulator announced that the conglomerate’s insurance arm, China Evergrande Insurance, was taken over by Haigang Life Insurance, a new state-owned insurer.
- Jim Pollard
NOTE: This report was updated with further details on Sept 28, 2023.