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After Another Developer's Surprise Debt Crisis, China May Open Up To More Foreign Investment

President of China Xi Jinping

With even seemingly healthy Chinese developers announcing surprise credit crises, the country's real estate market seems less stable than ever.

Zhenro Properties Group issued an exchange filing on Friday warning that it may not have enough cash to meet its debt payments and asking creditors to waive default claims should the company fail to redeem a $200M perpetual note on March 5, Bloomberg reports. As recently as Jan. 6, Zhenro was boasting of its financial strength after securing a credit line worth $1.44B from the state-owned Bank of China.

The sudden reversal of fortunes has further depressed the value of bonds issued by all Chinese developers, with investors losing trust in companies' pronouncements of health, Bloomberg reports. Securing new financing, a necessity for many developers instructed by the government to pay down oversized debt loads, has never been more expensive for the Chinese real estate sector.

One day after Zhenro confirmed investors' fears about its solvency and sent real estate stocks tumbling, China Securities Regulatory Commission, the state's financial oversight body, announced that it would deepen bond issuance reforms and open the country up more to inbound foreign capital, Bloomberg reports. The commission did not elaborate on its plans in the four-paragraph statement it issued on Saturday.

Evergrande Group, the second-largest developer in China, became the poster child for the country's real estate debt crisis when it began warning its creditors of its inability to pay down its debt obligation, the biggest of any real estate company in the world, in the fall. In December, Evergrande finally defaulted, and has been in search of a way to restructure its company to prevent a full-scale collapse ever since.

Evergrande asked foreign debt holders for six more months to get its affairs in order, with one proposal that would see China Cinda Asset Management Co., a state-run company focused on holding bad debt, manage whatever parts of Evergrande that can't be sold quickly on the open market, Bloomberg reports. But though it is the biggest company in peril, Evergrande is far from alone — China Oceanwide Holdings is one of several companies whose financial problems have derailed developments in the U.S. and UK.

While foreign bond investors are hoping for some intervention from the government of President Xi Jinping to stabilize the country's real estate sector, his financial regulators have directed Evergrande to prioritize paying contractors and retail investors in its wealth management products to forestall social unrest. Further action could result in foreign bondholders being forced to take haircuts on their repayments, per Bloomberg.