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Evergrande Dodges Default, Sparking Temporary Relief For Chinese Developers

A project being developed by Evergrande in the Chinese city of Yuanyang

China’s contingency of property developers is taking a sigh of relief, albeit a temporary one, after Evergrande once again averted default.

The Chinese developer made a set of last-minute bond payments Wednesday, marking the third time in the past month the company has nearly missed the deadline, according to Reuters. China Evergrande Group is the most indebted developer in the world, with upward of $300B in liabilities. 

A default by Evergrande would exacerbate the debt crisis looming over the world's second-largest economy, with significant repercussions for the country’s $5 trillion property sector and potentially the United States economy as well. 

Earlier this week, the Federal Reserve warned woes in China’s property sector may threaten the U.S. as a result of the size of China’s economy and its trade linkages with the rest of the world. 

“Financial stresses in China could strain global financial markets through a deterioration of risk sentiment, pose risks to global economic growth, and affect the United States,” the Fed said in its Financial Stability Report released Monday.

About 20% of Chinese development companies are at risk of defaulting on bonds owed to international investors. Nearly half a dozen Chinese property developers have defaulted on foreign bonds in recent weeks, according to The New York Times, worsening the lending environment for all Chinese companies.

Early signs of this negative impact are already being felt in the U.S., with beleaguered Chinese developer Oceanwide struggling to pay loans for its projects in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The firm last month gave over the keys to its stalled 2M SF Oceanwide Center in San Francisco, and it is attempting to avoid the same fate for its Manhattan development site at 80 South St. by listing it for about $200M.

In Los Angeles, Oceanwide is exploring financing options to complete the long-paused Oceanwide Plaza, which could cost more than $900M.

Evergrande's payments this week totaled about $148M after the firm freed up money over the past month by selling shares in a Hong Kong media company. Last month, it sold two private jets in part to raise cash for a $128.5M loan payment.

The move came amid news reports that Chinese regulators are considering pulling back on strict regulations to enable developers to sell assets to repay debts. Under new rules, buyers could potentially take over distressed assets without affecting their own debt ratios, according to The Wall Street Journal. Stocks of Chinese developers jumped as a result, with the Hang Seng Mainland Properties index starting the day up 5.6%.

Evergrande is facing another deadline on Dec. 28, by which it must pay north of $255M.