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China Evergrande vows to resolve debt risks after regulators' warning

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FILE PHOTO: A logo of China Evergrande Group is displayed at a news conference on the property developer's annual results in Hong Kong
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SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (Reuters) - China Evergrande, the country's most indebted property developer, pledged on Friday to do everything it can to resolve its debt issues, a day after receiving a rare warning from concerned regulators to get its house in order.

Financial markets are worried that any crisis at Evergrande could ripple through China's banking system as the company struggles to find the cash it needs to pay its many lenders and suppliers.

Evergrande also said it would work to maintain the stability of the real estate market, in a statement issued hours after the People's Bank of China and the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission summoned company executives and warned that it needed to reduce its debt risks and prioritize stability.

The unusual summons came days after President Xi Jinping highlighted efforts to forestall major financial risks and as a flurry of regulatory crackdowns roil China's equity markets.

"Evergrande Group will fully implement the requirements of the interview and unswervingly implement the central government's strategic deployment of the stable and healthy development of the real estate market," the developer said https://bit.ly/3kcqAVA in the statement.

Despite Evergrande's sale of a number of assets recently and bond repayments, analysts said the summons shows that the regulators are not satisfied with the company's progress in resolving its debt problems so far.

"This (is) a strong warning to the company and (we) expect an acceleration in asset sales, introducing strategic investors, and advancing negotiations with suppliers," Lucror Analytics credit analyst Chuanyi Zhou said.

But investors appeared divided over its prospects.

Evergrande's Hong Kong-listed shares reversed early gains to drop 2% by noon, taking their tumble so far this year to more than 75%.

Its yuan bonds due July 2022 rose 6.4%, but bonds maturing in May 2023 lost 8.6%, suggesting investors were more optimistic about repayments of its short-term debt than longer-term obligations. Respectively, the bonds were the biggest gainers and losers in Shanghai.

Wei Liang Chang, a strategist at Singapore's DBS Bank, said the summons should assure markets that policymakers will not be slow to respond to risks, though he added it might be too early to draw too many conclusions.

"While Huarong was granted a state-led recapitalisation, there is no equivalent policy relief for Evergrande," he said, referring to a rescue of one of China's bad debt managers announced earlier this week. Evergrande is privately owned.

Evergrande, which had $88 billion of interest-bearing indebtedness at the end of June, has been pursing asset sales, with Reuters reporting https://www.reuters.com/world/china/exclusive-china-evergrande-talks-with-xiaomi-consortium-sell-ev-unit-stake-2021-08-19 on Thursday of efforts to offload part of its electric vehicle business.

Evergrande said in a statement on Friday that its unit, Evergrande New Energy Vehicle (NEV) Group, had held preliminary talks with smartphone maker Xiaomi regarding it coming on as a strategic shareholder, although there was no in-depth discussions.

Evergrande also has more than 240 billion yuan ($37 billion) of bills and trade payables from contractors to settle over the next 12 months, according to ratings agency S&P Global.

Concern over the developer's financial health intensified in June when it failed to pay some commercial paper on time. It has faced a growing number of legal claims over late payments.

(Reporting by Emily Chow and Brenda Goh in SHANGHAI, Anne Marie Roantree and Clare Jim in Hong Kong and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Lincoln Feast and Kim Coghill)

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