The billionaire founder of Evergrande, China’s most indebted property developer, has stepped down from his position as chairman of the company’s main real estate arm, Hengda Real Estate Group, according to a notice filed to a government website on Tuesday.
The news that Xu Jiayin, the chairman, would be replaced by Zhao Changlong, a previous company director who will take over as general manager of the real estate arm, sent the developer’s shares falling by more than 4 percent.
Details of the management change at Hengda Real Estate Group were published on the National Enterprise Credit Information System, a government corporate information site. A spokesperson for Evergrande said the announcement would not result in any change to the company’s management structure. The person did not clarify exactly how Mr. Xu’s role at Evergrande had been affected.
Evergrande is the latest Chinese corporate giant to fall under the microscope of regulators looking to rein in unruly corporate debt. One of the country’s most debt-saddled companies, it has as much as $300 billion in unpaid bills, loan and bond payments.
Evergrande cranes dot China’s urban landscape. During the country’s boom years, it helped to create the kind of economic activity that officials came to depend on to fuel the nation’s miraculous growth. It sold apartments before they were built, using a model that allowed it to grow quickly as the country urbanized. Then it borrowed money to dabble in new business ventures, like an unprofitable soccer club and an electric vehicle company.
Fearing a housing bubble could lead to a crisis that would reverberate through China’s financial system, regulators last year began to crack down on the borrowing habits of the property sector. The central bank created new rules called the “three red lines” that have forced property companies to begin paying off their bills. Evergrande was the primary target.
Evergrande has been selling off parts of its empire to comply. Earlier this month it sold stakes in its internet business. Mr. Xu has told investors that the company is working hard to pay off some of its loans and has reduced the debt that incurs interest to $88 billion from $130 billion last year.
The management changes on Tuesday could foreshadow more turmoil ahead.
Evergrande last week confirmed reports that it was in talks with prospective buyers to sell its electric vehicle business and its property management unit without offering any further details.