Caixin
Jun 16, 2021 08:11 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

Debt-Riddled Inter Milan-Owner to Raise Cash by Selling Staff Apartments

Suning founder Zhang Jindong. Photo: The Paper
Suning founder Zhang Jindong. Photo: The Paper

Chinese retailing giant Suning has received approval from the holders of its 4.2 billion yuan ($656.5 million) bond to delay repayment amid increasingly desperate plans to claw its way out of mounting debt, including turfing out employees from purpose-built apartments in the hope of selling the properties.

The five-year bond, issued by Suning Appliance Group Co. Ltd., an affiliate of Suning Holdings Group, was due on Wednesday, but repayment has been postponed for two years, according to a company filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange seen by Caixin. The bond’s coupon rate is 6.5%.

The delay illustrates how the owner of football club Inter Milan is still struggling, despite receiving billions of yuan in state bailouts after losses at its core retail business mounted last year and amid the debt it took on to fund an acquisition spree from 2015 to 2019.

In a bid to ease its liquidity crunch, Suning is also preparing to sell apartments it built especially to house its employees, a company insider told Caixin. The company has asked staff who rent the apartments in the Zijin Jiayuan community in Nanjing to leave within one month, citing the need to raise cash, the source said. It is unclear how many staff will be affected.

Also on Wednesday, shares of Suning.com Co. Ltd. (002024.SZ), the e-commerce arm of Suning Holdings, were suspended on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange ahead of a “significant announcement,” according to a statement (link in Chinese) by the bourse.

The company’s share price closed down by the maximum daily limit of 10% at 5.59 yuan on Tuesday after it announced that a local court in Beijing had frozen more than one-quarter of Suning founder Zhang Jindong’s stake in the company.

Suning.com explained (link in Chinese) that the freeze involves a disagreement between an affiliate of Zhang and a Guizhou province-based trust company over a 3 billion yuan trust financing contract.

Zhang is the controlling shareholder of Suning.com and holds 21% of its shares. Beijing Second Intermediate Court has frozen 540.2 million of the shares, accounting for 5.8% of the company’s total.

Suning has been trying to pull itself out of its mounting debt crisis since late last year by seeking bailouts and disposing of assets. Earlier this month, Suning.com said 5.59% of its shares will be transferred under a 3.2 billion yuan bailout by Jiangsu New Retail Development Fund, which was started by four state-owned enterprises that are ultimately controlled by the Jiangsu provincial government.

Last year, Suning.com reported a 4.3 billion yuan net loss, reversing a net profit of 9.8 billion yuan in 2019.

Contact reporter Guo Yingzhe (yingzheguo@caixin.com) and editor Flynn Murphy (flynnmurphy@caixin.com)

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