China's largest real estate developer as measured by contracted sales, China Evergrande, may have just fired the first shot in what might turn out to be a nationwide property price war, experts say.
Evergrande is launching a September-long promotion. It will offer 30 percent discounts on all of its unsold properties nationwide. The campaign is offering the company's deepest discounts and is part of an attempt to raise liquidity in a slow market.
China Evergrande's campaign might be the start of a price war in the country's housing market, according to a director of Shanghai-based E-house China Research and Development Institute Yan Yuejin. Under intense financial pressure other developers will likely launch their own promotions to get rid of unsold homes.
Hong Kong-listed China Evergrande officially kicked off the campaign Monday. It ends Oct. 8. Its target is to sell 200 billion yuan ($29 billion) in properties in the month. Evergrande's chairman is Hui Ka Yan - China's third-richest man, according to Forbes China rich list 2019.
It expects the discounts to attract reluctant buyers who would have otherwise held off purchasing a property in the current economic environment. The promotion will overlap with the China's National Day holiday Oct. 1 - typically a peak for new-home purchases.
These kinds of discounts aren't common in China's real estate industry because most developers avoid cutting prices, analysts said. Fixed assets such as property retain their value which is why developers have no real incentive to reduce prices.
However, given the current coronavirus-affected consumption environment, China's developers are under a lot of pressure to raise liquidity to keep up debt payments. Since the start of the pandemic, developers have seen their debt rise significantly. According to data published by online property information company Beike Zhaofang, aggregate bond payments for China developers are expected to reach 360 billion yuan this year.
China Evergrande, founded in 1996, currently owes around $19 billion from 13 bonds. It also holds various euro/dollar bonds and euro/nondollar instruments. It has an HK$8 billion term loan coming due Nov. 30.