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Disgruntled China Evergrande investors crowd headquarters in protest

SHENZHEN: Chaotic scenes erupted at the headquarters of cash-strapped developer China Evergrande Group on Monday (Sep 13), as roughly 100 disgruntled investors crowded its lobby to demand repayment of loans and financial products.

Around midday, more than 60 uniformed security personnel formed a wall in front of the main entrances to the glistening tower in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen, where protesters shouted at company representatives.

"A company as big as yours, how much money has been swindled from ordinary people?" a woman said to Du Liang, identified by staff as general manager and legal representative of Evergrande's wealth management division.

On Sunday evening Du had read out a proposal for repayments for holders of wealth management products, according to financial media outlet Caixin, but protesters at the company's headquarters appeared to reject it.

"They said repayment would take two years, but there's no real guarantee and I'm worried the company will be bankrupt by the end of the year," said a protester surnamed Wang, who said he works for Evergrande and had invested US$15,497 (100,000 yuan) with the company, while relatives had invested around one million yuan.

Several protesters said Du had remained in the lobby overnight. He was seen sitting on the ground and slumped against a wall on Monday, visibly exhausted.

Protesters took it in turns to air grievances and at one point a woman in the crowd collapsed.

The mood was tense, with protestors attempting unsuccessfully to push through a security line blocking access to lifts.

"Evergrande, give us our money back!" they chanted.

Three company representatives on the scene, including Du, did not respond to questions from Reuters.

A woman receives aid on the ground next to Du Jiang, the general manager and legal representative of Evergrande's wealth management division, while people gather to demand repayment of loans and financial products at the Evergrande's headquarters, in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China September 13, 2021. REUTERS/David Kirton

Evergrande's media relations office and police in Shenzhen did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

The protest comes amid worries the country's most indebted developer, with liabilities of US$305 billion (1.97 trillion yuan), will be unable to repay investors and that its debt woes could pose systemic risks to China's financial system.

On Friday, Evergrande vowed to repay all of its matured wealth management products as soon as possible.

Many buyers of Evergrande-built homes have expressed concern about the down-payments they paid for projects that are now suspended by the property firm, airing their concerns on China's Twitter-like Weibo.    

Hundreds of people in recent months have also protested on an online forum set up by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, seeking help from the government.

On Monday, the Shanghai Stock Exchange paused trading in Evergrande's May 2023 bond because of abnormal fluctuations, after it had fallen more than 30 per cent to 53.43 yuan.

Source: Reuters/ng

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