- Real-estate giant Evergrande is teetering on the verge of collapse, but has managed to fly below the radar on Chinese social media for over a week.
- This might be due to positive messages about the company being pushed on Weibo comment threads — akin to subreddits — penned by stock market influencers and analysts.
- An expert told Insider that these messages could be helping to quell discontent and pacify investors less in-the-know about Evergrande.
The financial troubles of Chinese real-estate juggernaut Evergrande are likely far from over, but social media influencers in China may be helping to calm the storm.
Evergrande has more than $305 billion in liabilities — more than any other company in the world, per Markets Insider. Its failure to pay off its debts has caused jitters across Asian and international markets, prompting some analysts to term it China’s “Lehman Brothers moment.”
That Evergrande Chairman Xu Jiayin remains immensely wealthy amid Evergrande’s financial struggles has angered Chinese social media users on the country’s Twitter-like platform, Weibo. Weibo users were up in arms about a letter Xu sent to employees on September 21 that said the company would soon “walk out of the darkness” and encouraged staff to rally and work hard to make that happen.
Insider saw the Evergrande-letter topic thread, which is comparable to a subreddit, rake in more than 100,000 comments within the first 30 minutes of it being posted. Some posters on the topic thread called Xu “delusional” and even accused him of cheating workers of their paychecks.
However, in the week since that letter was published, Xu and Evergrande have managed to avoid being listed on Weibo’s top trends, suggesting that chatter about the company has dropped off.
That may be, in part, thanks to a concerted campaign by prominent Chinese financial influencers to quell the panic.
Positive news about Evergrande is being pushed by stock market influencers
Weibo finance influencers provide financial advice to their followers and post periodic updates on the stock market
One Weibo topic thread created by three stock-market influencers garnered around four million clicks at press time. Titled “Evergrande settles with Guangfa Bank,” the thread appears to push the false message that Evergrande has fully settled on a repayment schedule with all the banks to which it owes billions of dollars. This is only half-true — Evergrande has agreed to settle interest payments on a domestic bond, but still owes billions of dollars to other banks.
However, this topic thread has spawned hundreds of discussion threads, with people reassuring each other about the state of Evergrande’s financial situation despite the company teetering on the verge of collapse.
“It seems like Evergrande will be completely fine, and can pull through! Xu Jiayin has used his leverage to really rescue the company, and I’m guessing the storm will pass soon,” wrote Weibo finance and tech influencer Chu Di Shaozhu, who has 196,000 followers on the platform.
Another Weibo user, Jing Chu Gong Zi, was also seen pushing a message this week that Evergrande, despite its liabilities, still bore a lot of investment potential, positing that the company still had ways of “squeezing out some money” to deal with its crisis. Jing has 950,000 followers on the platform and brands himself as a finance news commentator.
Another top poster on positive Evergrande topic threads is Hu Jiangbo, a Beijing-based financial stock market influencer with over 500,000 followers on the platform. From September 15, Hu made five different blog posts about Evergrande, including one about Evergrande investors potentially getting returns on their investments, and another about Evergrande working hard to settle its debts with Chinese banks.
Hu, Chu, and Jing did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
Stock market influencers and their encouraging Evergrande messages are helping to pacify less-savvy investors: expert
Giles Coghlan, chief currency analyst at trading firm Henyep Capital Markets, told Insider that social media influencers are capable of swaying public opinion, but only to some extent.
“Social media influencers can sway public opinion on Evergrande at the margins, but the main drive will come from the Chinese government. The government’s pivot to pushing for ‘common prosperity’ is very real and extends far beyond Evergrande,” Coghlan said.
Common prosperity refers to Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s push for wealth distribution and criticism of “excessive incomes.”
Coghlan added that influencer accounts posting reassuring messages would undoubtedly help to quell discontent and pacify smaller investors who might be less in the know about the state of the market.
The currency analyst said he wasn’t sure whether the Chinese government was directly involved in promoting these finance influencers or massaging their messages, but noted that “ultimately, the government will encourage this posting of positive messages.”
Coghlan believes the government will do everything it can to prevent a total Evergrande implosion.
“It will divide, cut debts, and manage the situation as best as it can without allowing a full market collapse,” he said, because ultimately, “the idea of ‘common prosperity’ does not sit well as a message if bringing it about results in a market collapse. Stability is in everyone’s best interests.”