China Oceanwide Holdings is vowing to fight back on both sides of the Pacific after creditors travelled to Bermuda to slap its Hong Kong-listed entity with a winding-up petition earlier this month and a Beijing court froze onshore holdings after a creditor demanded RMB 1.98 billion ($296 million) in bond repayments, according to an announcement to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange on Tuesday.
The pair of setbacks for Oceanwide came after receivers appointed by creditors of its $410 million 80 South Street development had seized the Lower Manhattan project last month, with that same debt triggering a court move in Bermuda to liquidate Oceanwide’s Hong Kong-listed vehicle.
In a filing last Friday, Oceanwide contended that, having already been stripped of its New York City prize over $175 million in unpaid debt, its US creditors were going too far by pursuing the developer in its Caribbean domicile.
“Given the outstanding sum of the demand has been covered by the Pledged Property, the Company will oppose the Petition vigorously,” Oceanwide told the Hong Kong stock exchange, noting that the New York property had a book value of $220 million as of the end of last year.
DW 80 South LLC on Thursday of last week filed a winding-up petition with the Supreme Court of Bermuda on the grounds that the developer has failed to pay an outstanding sum of $175 million, the Hong Kong-listed unit of Oceanwide Group said in the Friday filing.
Once one of China’s most aggressive cross-border investors, Oceanwide has struggled since Beijing restricted international capital flows in 2018 and tipped into insolvency since the country tightened domestic credit with the Three Red Lines policies enacted in 2020.
Earlier filings by the Beijing-based builder show that it had taken a $175 million loan backed by its skyscraper project in New York City’s South Street Seaport area and had taken a six-month extension on that two-year debt in May 2021.
The Chinese developer defaulted when it missed a $1.3 million interest payment in January and the Lower Manhattan property, 80 South Street, went into receivership last month.
Domestic Bond Default
Oceanwide Holdings Co Ltd, the Shenzhen-listed unit, said in a filing (in Chinese) on Monday that the Beijing Financial Court has frozen its 31 percent stake in Minsheng Securities for a period of three years.
Oceanwide is Minsheng Securities’ largest shareholder, according to its 2021 annual report.
The company found out that the asset was frozen due to its disputes with China Minsheng Trust Co Ltd, and a previous company filing on 23 April had disclosed the details of the lawsuit, Oceanwide said in the statement.
“The company will strive to resolve the disputes as soon as possible so that the frozen company asset can be released,” it said.
Minsheng Trust, which has defaulted on several of its own trust products due to a cash crunch, filed a lawsuit with Beijing Financial Court for a claim over the Shenzhen-listed company to repay in advance a total of RMB 1.98 billion ($296 million) of principal, as well as interest, for three Oceanwide domestic bonds it purchased in 2020, according to Oceanwide’s disclosure in April (in Chinese).
These include RMB 573.2 million of principal for the 20 Fankong 01 bonds that will mature in January 2023, RMB 816.4 million of principal for the 20 Fanhai 01 bonds that will mature in June 2023, and RMB 594.8 million of principal for the 20 Fanhai 02 bonds that will mature in July 2023, as well as the corresponding interest.
In addition, Minsheng Trust is demanding that Oceanwide Group and founder Lu Zhiqiang be held liable for the debt repayment.
Offshore Empire Crumbles
Founded in 1985, Oceanwide started as a property developer and grew into one of China’s largest conglomerates, with investments in banking, insurance, energy, media and technology.
Over the past decade, it joined the rush of Chinese investors pouring more than $235 billion into overseas acquisitions, ranging from trophy hotels to Hollywood film studios.
Oceanwide bought the New York property for $390 million in 2016 and invested another $20 million into the site, though construction never started.
The firm planned to build a single tower combining commercial and residential space that could reach more than 304 metres (1,000 feet) tall. But after plans ground to a halt, Oceanwide began marketing the site for about $300 million in 2019 and lowered its asking price to $200 million last year.
Without its New York property, Oceanwide is down to just one US project — an unfinished 2 million square foot (185,806 square metre) hotel, condo and retail development in Los Angeles dubbed Oceanwide Plaza.
Last October, creditors foreclosed on Oceanwide’s San Francisco mixed-use project after the company defaulted on a $320 million bond repayment. The development is now for sale.
In March, Oceanwide agreed to sell its Kapolei West residential site on the Hawaiian island of Oahu to a local firm at a loss of $24.8 million.
The company said in its annual report in March that it plans to sell its three Hawaii projects and its South Street Seaport supertall development in New York City this year so it can focus on the long-delayed Oceanwide Plaza project in Los Angeles.
Oceanwide suffered a net loss of HK$5.36 billion ($680 million) last year, ballooning from a year-earlier deficit of HK$926.6 million, according to the company’s 2021 annual report.