2018-03-04 — nytimes.com
... HNA Group, in a few short years had racked up $50 billion in big purchases as well as investments in global companies like Hilton Hotels, Deutsche Bank and Virgin Australia. [But now,] the deals that helped the company achieve its global reach are coming back to haunt it... HNA is now contending with its $90 billion in debt, according to its own regulatory filings. One third of that is due this year. Investors are wondering how the company will meet its obligations.
To cope, HNA is trying to reverse what had been one of the world's biggest and most aggressive deal machines by unloading billions of dollars' worth of properties. It also has pledged some of the assets it bought over the past two years to lenders as collateral to raise cash. HNA has even announced plans to sell some of the assets it acquired when it bought a 25 percent stake in Hilton Worldwide Hotels, according to a regulatory filing.
The Chinese government has tightened its grip on the economy as the country's president, Xi Jinping, consolidates his power and paves the way toward running China longer than any ruler since Mao Zedong. That tightened grip includes increasing pressure on major Chinese companies that piled on heavy debt to make audacious deals abroad.
That pressure has intensified in recent weeks amid indications that China is trying to tackle its debt and financial problems. Just two weeks ago, the Chinese authorities seized Anbang Insurance Group, a once-quiet insurer that turned to sales of opaque investment products to fuel a global buying binge that included the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. Other companies, like Dalian Wanda Group, have already sold off billions of dollars' worth of properties at home and abroad as the authorities worried about growing debt and risk.
As official attitudes turn against flashy but potentially frivolous foreign spending, the pressure is catching up to HNA.
About $1.8 billion of its pending deals still await regulatory approval. Among those is a $775 million deal to acquire a majority stake in the storage and logistics business owned by Glencore International with operations around the world. They also include the purchase of a company from Anthony Scaramucci, a former Trump administration aide.''
Sales by HNA this year could total $16 billion, by some estimates -- more than the nearly $14 billion in deals it struck last year.
HNA's fate could affect businesses -- and tens of thousands of workers -- around the world thanks to its spending spree. HNA owns Ingram Micro, an American distributor of technology products that it bought two years ago for $6 billion; Swissport, a baggage handler, and Gategroup, an airline caterer, both of Switzerland; and hotels and other properties in the United States and elsewhere.
Some of those properties are now on the block. The company hired JPMorgan Chase in January to help find a buyer for its stake in NH Hotels, a Spanish chain. One week after Mr. Chen, HNA's founder, received an award at the New York gala from Mr. Schwarzman, it sold a Sydney office building for $160 million to Blackstone, Mr. Schwarzman's firm.
HNA is also a significant minority shareholder in a number of international companies. It owns 26 percent of Hilton Hotels, the American hospitality chain; a 19.8 percent stake in Virgin Australia, the airline; and a 20.9 percent stake in Dufry, the Swiss airport retailer. It also owns shares representing 3.5 percent voting rights in Deutsche Bank, the German lender.
HNA recently began selling Deutsche Bank shares and had pledged many of them for loans. It has also pledged some of its shares in Dufry and Hilton in exchange for loans. In response to questions, Deutsche Bank cited a statement from HNA that the Chinese company would not sell more of its stake of the bank and declined to comment further. Dufry, Hilton and Virgin Australia declined to comment.
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