Vanke tussle intensifies as Evergrande gets closer to No 2 shareholder
Chinese developer likely to proceed with its aggressive buying with an eye for board seats or even control of its rival
China Evergrande Group is fast approaching the door to China Vanke’s boardroom after it has accumulated a 14 per cent stake in the country’s largest homebuilder and is on its way to become its second-largest shareholder.
Vanke, chaired by property tycoon Wang Shi, has been embroiled in a long-running battle over control as the company is fending off a potential hostile takeover by Baoneng Group. And the tussle has become more complicated in recent months as Evergrande joined the fight.
After splashing out a further 12 billion yuan to buy Vanke’s shares on Tuesday, Evergrande has now held a 14.07 per cent stake, compared with the 15.29 per cent interest owned by China Resources, currently the second-largest shareholder. Baoneng remains the biggest shareholder with a 25.4 per cent stake.
Analysts believe Evergrande will proceed with its aggressive buying with an eye for board seats or even control of Vanke.
“What Evergrande wants is Vanke’s strong financing channel,” said John So, an analyst with China Merchants Securities, who expects the developer will gain access to 200 billion yuan in funding with the takeover of Vanke.
At 430 per cent at the end of June, Evergrande’s debt leverage is one of the highest among its peers.
In October, the firm moved its place of registration from Guangzhou to Shenzhen, where Vanke is based, further fuelling speculation over a possible takeover.
If Evergrande wanted to accumulate a stake big enough for it to control Vanke, the company needed to acquire shares from Baoneng or China Resources, So said.
Earlier this month, Chinese media Caixin reported that the Shenzhen government asked Evergrande to sell its shares to the rail operator, but the deal is likely to collapse.
“For sure, Evergrande wants to have influence in the boardroom or at least accumulate more shares to a level that will allow it to consolidate Vanke’s balance sheet in order to lower its own gearing,” said David Hong, head of research at China Real Estate Information Corp’s Hong Kong office.
Vanke will re-elect its 11 board members at its annual shareholders’ meeting in March. Neither Baoneng nor Evergrande has any seats at the moment, while state-owned conglomerate China Resources have three directors on the board.
Meanwhile, Evergrande agreed to sell its Qingdao project to Sunac China Holdings for 3.66 billion yuan on Wednesday morning, just a day after it announced it had bought more shares in Vanke.
The developer might face financial pressure over the short term, given the six-month lock-up period for its 36 billion yuan worth of shares in Vanke, Hong said.
Shares in Vanke jumped 3.13 per cent in Shenzhen to 26.98 yuan on Wednesday while they rose 1.71 per cent to HK$23.80 in Hong Kong.