The US central bank warned Monday that China’s ongoing property woes could elevate “financial stresses in China, [which] could further strain global financial markets and negatively affect the United States.”
In its biannual report on financial stability, the Fed pointed specifically to the crisis at Evergrande, China’s most indebted developer. The company has sparked fears of contagion since September, upon warning that it could default on its debts of more than $300 billion. Several other real estate developers are also in trouble.
Though “Chinese authorities have introduced measures to cool down property markets,” there is a risk that “financial vulnerabilities will continue to rise,” the Fed noted.
The central bank warned that given the size of China’s economy and financial system, and its global ties, “financial stresses in China could strain global financial markets through a deterioration of risk sentiment, pose risks to global economic growth, and affect the United States.”
Evergrande is one of China’s largest real estate developers. The company is part of the Global 500, meaning that it’s also one of the world’s biggest businesses by revenue.
Stocks in Hong Kong, New York and other major markets have previously been swayed by fears of contagion from Evergrande and a slowdown in Chinese growth.
Those worries have receded in recent weeks as Evergrande managed to find enough money to meet international debt repayments, including raising about $144 million over the last few days from selling a small stake in media company HengTen Networks Group. But it faces much bigger bills in the coming months.
The conglomerate’s ongoing fiasco is seen as a big test for Beijing. Initially, some even raised the possibility that a default by the company could turn into China’s “Lehman Brothers moment,” though many analysts later said it’s unlikely the government would let that happen.
The People’s Bank of China has previously said that Evergrande had mismanaged its business, but risks to the financial system were “controllable.” And Chinese Vice Premier Liu He has stressed that risks are generally under control, despite what he calls “individual problems” in the property market.
Last month, authorities also called on companies to pay their debts — and redeem the principal and interest payments on their overseas bonds, according to a government statement. It did not specify which firms the message was directed at. But in recent weeks, a slew of real estate developers have disclosed their own cash flow issues, asking lenders for more time to repay them or warning of potential defaults.
The stakes are high: Real estate — and related industries — account for as much as 30% of Chinese GDP.