Country Garden to be booted from Hong Kong's stock index

There’s even more bad news for Country Garden, the embattled developer that’s the latest to look unsteady amid China’s real estate crisis.

Country Garden Holdings will be removed from the Hang Seng Index, Hong Kong’s flagship index tracking the largest companies on the city’s stock exchange, the index’s compiler announced on Friday.

The decision was made as part of the index’s quarterly review. Sinopharm, the state-owned pharmaceutical company being one of China’s main two COVID vaccines, will take Country Garden’s place.

Country Garden Services, the company’s property management division, is also getting booted from the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, which tracks the Hong Kong-traded stocks of mainland Chinese companies. Travel e-commerce site will take its place.

Both changes will take effect on Sep. 4.

Country Garden on a countdown clock to default

Losing its place on the Hang Seng Index is a big hit to Country Garden’s prestige.

The company boasted $64 billion in revenue last year and was at one point one of China’s largest developers. The developer joined the Hang Seng Index in 2017, just over ten years after it debuted in a $1.7 billion IPO.

Country Garden is currently on a countdown clock to its first-ever default, after it missed a $22.5 million interest payment on one of its offshore bonds on Aug. 7. The developer now has 30 days to pay up before it is officially deemed to be in default. 

The developer is now scrambling to find a way to scrounge up enough cash to make its debt payments.

Chinese news outlets report that Country Garden is asking to extend the payment period for a bond due on Sep. 2, totaling over $535 million, according to the South China Morning Post. Bondholders would want around $14,000 upfront, with the remaining sum split into seven installments over three years.

Not all bondholders are happy, with some demanding full repayment of the bond on time, reports Bloomberg. Country Garden will ask bondholders to vote on both the delayed payment plan and the full repayment petition this week. 

A collapse of Country Garden could be worse than a collapse of Evergrande, which filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protections in New York on Thursday. Country Garden has four times as many projects under construction as Evergrande, whose default in December 2021 sparked China’s real estate crisis.

Country Garden has already warned of a net loss of up to $7.6 billion for the first half of the year, and has suspended several of its yuan-denominated bonds from trading. 

Country Garden did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment sent to its investor relations department.

What happened to Country Garden’s shares?

Country Garden is now the Hong Kong equivalent of a penny stock, trading below one Hong Kong dollar ($0.13) for over a week. Shares have lost over 70% of their value since the beginning of the year. 

At the peak share price in January 2018, Country Garden had a market capitalization of over $60 billion. It’s now fallen to just $2.6 billion.

Shares in Country Garden Services closed at $0.91 on Monday, representing an over 60% drop from the beginning of the year. 

How bad is China’s economy?

China’s real estate crisis is partly to blame for the country’s sputtering economic recovery.

The real estate sector contributes about a quarter of the country’s GDP, and a drop in home values is dragging down consumer confidence.

Economists are also concerned that problems in the real estate sector could spread through China’s financial system, including the $3 trillion shadow banking sector. 

On Monday, the People’s Bank of China cut the one-year loan prime rate, which underpins most household and corporate loans, by ten basis points, smaller than what economists expected.

The central bank left the five-year loan prime rate, which pegs mortgages, unchanged, suggesting the bank wasn’t willing to provide more support to the property market at this time. 

The Hang Seng Index fell 1.8% on Monday, following the smaller-than-expected rate cuts. The Hang Seng Index has fallen by 12.4% this year after a small rally from China’s relaxation of COVID controls fizzled out.

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