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RPT-Hong Kong shares, yuan battered by plunging property stocks

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Sept 20 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares fell to an 11-month low and the offshore yuan weakened on Monday, as a plunge in beleaguered property developer China Evergrande Group led other stocks in the sector lower.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index slid 3.87% by the midday break, after hitting its lowest since October, dragged down by the property sector. The bluechip developer index lost 6.6% and a broad index tracking property and construction stocks fell 6.3%.

Mainland Chinese stock markets are closed for the mid-autumn festival although FTSE China futures traded in Singapore shed 4.05%.

“Market sentiment is fragile in Hong Kong at the moment,” said Dickie Wong, research director at Kingston Securities.

He said the declines were due to growing risks of defaults at Chinese property developers and concerns that Beijing’s “common prosperity” agenda would also include Hong Kong real estate names, though he said the latter was likely an overreaction.

Beijing has ordered Hong Kong’s powerful property tycoons to do more to help solve the financial hub’s potentially destabilising housing shortage, Reuters reported last week.

Evergrande was once again one of the largest fallers, with shares dropping 17% to a fresh 11-year low. They have fallen more than 85% so far this year.

The developer has been scrambling to raise funds to pay its many lenders, suppliers and investors, with regulators warning that its $305 billion of liabilities could spark broader risks to the country’s financial system if not stabilised.

It is due to pay $83.5 million interest on Thursday for its March 2022 bond.

The developer’s woes also hurt bank stocks.

Reuters reported last week that Agricultural Bank of China, had made some loan loss provisions for part of its exposure to Evergrande while China Minsheng Banking Corp and China CITIC Bank Corp Ltd were considering rolling over some of their near-term debt obligations, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.

Ag Bank’s Hong Kong shares fell 4.1%, Minsheng Bank’s lost 5.2% and CITIC Bank’s shed 5.1%.

The fallout also added to pressure to the yuan, which fell to a three-week low of 6.4848 per dollar in offshore trade .

“I think it’s one of the triggering points,” said Mizuho analyst Ken Cheung, who said market instability generated by Evergrande added to the dollar’s allure along with recent weak economic data in China and expectations of U.S. tapering.

“With onshore markets on holidays, the PBOC may have less guidance over the renminbi,” he added. (Reporting by Alun John; Additional reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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