China Evergrande Group missed paying bond interest due yesterday, two bondholders said, its second unpaid offshore debt obligation in a week.
However the cash-strapped company today made a partial payment to some of its onshore investors.
The company, reeling under a debt pile of $305 billion, was due yesterday to make a $47.5m bond interest payment on its 9.5% March 2024 dollar bond.
It had missed $83.5m in coupon payments last week.
With liabilities equal to 2% of China's GDP, Evergrande has sparked concerns its woes could spread through the financial system and reverberate around the world.
However worries have eased somewhat after the central bank vowed to protect homebuyers' interests.
China's central bank urged financial institutions to cooperate with relevant departments and local governments to maintain the "stable and healthy" development of the real estate market and safeguard housing consumers' interests.
Evergrande's silence on its offshore payment obligations has, however, has left global investors wondering if they will have to swallow large losses when 30-day grace periods end for coupons that were due on September 23 and September 29.
The developer's treatment of offshore investors, however, contrasts with the way the company is managing its onshore liabilities.
Evergrande said today that its wealth management unit has made a 10% repayment of wealth management products (WMPs), which are largely owned by onshore retail investors, that are due by September 30.
The payment was made today and relevant funds have been issued to investors' accounts, Evergrande said in a notice posted on its website. It did not specify how much money was paid.
The two missed offshore payments come as the company, which has nearly $20 billion in offshore debt, faces deadlines on dollar bond coupon payments totalling $162.38m in the next month.
Once China's top-selling developer, Evergrande is now expected to be one of the largest-ever restructurings in the country. It has been prioritising its onshore liabilities amid concerns that its troubles could trigger social unrest.
"I can't see there being much willingness to give a fairer outcome to offshore bondholders rather than onshore banks, let alone house buyers and people who have lent onshore through the personal loan structures," said Alexander Aitken, a partner at Herbert Smith Freehills in Hong Kong.
"Of course legally there is also structural subordination from being offshore, which means lenders to Evergrande's onshore subsidiaries get paid before lenders to the parent company or any offshore debt issuer," he added.
Beijing is unlikely to intervene directly to resolve Evergrande's crisis in the form of a bailout, but analysts say it is wary of a messy collapse that could fuel unrest.
Disgruntled home buyers, investors and suppliers have staged protests at Evergrande offices this month, although authorities have clamped down on such activity.
There was a visible police and security presence outside Evergrande's headquarters in the southern city of Shenzhen today.
Authorities have in recent days prodded government-owned firms and state-backed property developers to purchase some Evergrande assets to reduce such risks.
Evergrande said yesterday that it would sell a 9.99 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) stake it owns in Shengjing Bank to a state-owned asset management company.
The bank, one of Evergrande's main lenders, demanded all net proceeds from the sale go towards settling the developer's debts with Shengjing, which had 7 billion yuan in loans to Evergrande as of the first half last year.
Separately, Evergrande's Pearl River Delta business said in a WeChat post this week that construction had resumed on nearly 20 developments in the area.
The post showed photos of various sites, and said that work resumption had accelerated since Evergrande vowed at the beginning of the month to deliver homes to buyers.
Its main onshore unit Hengda Real Estate Group announced a resolution of an onshore bond coupon payment on September 23 through "private negotiations".