As the real estate market in the United States was collapsing in the mid-2000s, Wall Street went in search of new terrain, and found it in China. All across the country, from Beijing to Shenzhen, sprawling housing developments and business districts were popping up, seemingly overnight. Real estate prices were soaring. Western banks, hedge funds, private equity firms and other investors wanted a piece of the action.
Billions poured into Chinese real estate, and big foreign financial firms hunted for the next hit — the small bet that investors could ride to great heights. One of those firms, Credit Suisse, scoured the landscape and in 2007 discovered Kaisa, a relatively small property developer in Shenzhen that mostly bought and rehabilitated distressed properties. Credit Suisse brokered a $300 million investment deal for Kaisa, and two years later, it went public. Its chairman, Guo Yingcheng, posed for photographs on the floor of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange holding a statue of a bull, which seemed to signify hopes for his company’s coming bull run. His colleagues poured Champagne into an ice sculpture of the company’s stock code: 1638.