China economy

Oil giant CEFC China’s debt woes widen as unit defaults on commercial paper

The default by the Shanghai unit comes days after the group put up Hong Kong property assets for sale to repay debt

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 August, 2018, 8:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 August, 2018, 10:56pm

CEFC Shanghai International Group, a unit of the country’s largest private oil conglomerate CEFC China Energy, said on Monday it failed to repay principal and interest on 2.1 billion yuan ($306 million) worth of commercial paper due on August 20.

The unit said it defaulted because operations had been seriously affected by recent negative events at the company, and it is actively raising funds to repay investors.

The announcement was made in a statement via the Shanghai Clearing House.

Earlier this month, CEFC China Energy, which is struggling to repay mounting debts, put up property assets worth HK$3.3 billion (US$420 million) in Hong Kong for sale in a tender that will close on September 11.

CEFC China had 98.3 billion yuan of outstanding debt as of July, and has already defaulted on three bonds in May and June worth a total of 6.5 billion yuan.

A creditors’ committee has taken over its daily operations, as chairman Ye Jianming has been detained for questioning regarding the debts since February, the Post reported earlier.

The disposal in Hong Kong marks a reversal of CEFC China’s global shopping for properties and assets between 2015 and 2017, acquisitions that had drawn regulators’ ire on the capital outflows and runaway borrowings.

It is part of a sale of the worldwide network of the company’s 89 property assets valued at 21.64 billion yuan (US$3.19 billion) as of March, including an apartment in Manhattan and a villa in Prague, the Post reported in July.

The most valuable asset in the Hong Kong sale is the 57,685 square ft office space spanning three floors and five additional units in the Convention Plaza Office Tower, a grade A building in Wan Chai district next to a major convention and exhibition venue. Property consultancy Savills, which is overseeing tender, valued these assets at HK$2.8 billion.

Buyers’ interests are high in the assets, said a spokeswoman, as the consultancy had received “many inquiries”.

Also on sale are four Bel-Air luxury flats in Cyberport, located in the Southern district of Hong Kong Island, and two flats at Grand Promenade in Sai Wan Ho on the northeastern shore of the island.