China’s biggest property developer sees first annual loss since 2007

China announces fresh bailouts for ailing property sector
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Chinese property giant Country Garden reported its first annual loss in fifteen years on Thursday, blaming persistent headwinds in the property market and the Covid-19 pandemic.

China’s property sector has been weakened by a slowing economy and a regulatory crackdown in recent years that narrowed developers’ access to credit.

Country Garden — the nation’s biggest developer in terms of sales — recorded a loss of 6.1 billion yuan ($887 million) for 2022, according to a stock exchange filing on Thursday.

It is the company’s first full-year loss since its 2007 listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange, and a sharp drop from the 26.7 billion yuan profit it recorded for 2021.

China’s property sector experienced a “harsh winter” in 2022, the group said in its filing, pointing to the “continued impact of Covid-19”.

China’s housing market, which along with construction accounts for more than a quarter of GDP, remains in a slump, having been dealt a hefty blow by Beijing’s crackdown on excessive borrowing and rampant speculation starting in 2020.

Real estate sales have since fallen in multiple cities and several developers are struggling to survive, with homebuyers last year refusing to pay mortgages on incomplete properties.

Strict restrictions and sudden lockdowns imposed as part of China’s zero-Covid policy disrupted construction and further dampened consumer confidence.

But authorities have signalled a relaxation of the property crackdown in recent months, with the government in January announcing it would ease financial conditions for a list of developers deemed to be healthy.

Country Garden, which was part of that list, said on Thursday it believed the property market had “bottomed out and can look forward to a recovery”.

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