HNA Group

Troubled HNA pledges luxury house on Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak for loan as it tries to repay debts

The once-acquisitive Chinese conglomerate is struggling to find a buyer for the property at the ultra-private Twelve Peaks development, according to a source

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2018, 8:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2018, 9:18am

HNA Group, once China’s most aggressive overseas buyer, is aiming to use a luxury house on Hong Kong’s exclusive Victoria Peak as collateral for a loan to help pay off debts incurred during its global shopping spree.

House 6 at Twelve Peaks – one of the most expensive residences in Asia in square footage terms – has been on the market for sale but has so far failed to attract a buyer because of its high price tag, according to a source familiar with the deal.

The asking price is not known, but a neighbouring property, House 8, this week changed hands for HK$130,000 per square foot, which would give House 6 a value of HK$550 million (US$70 million) at the same rate.

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The embattled conglomerate put House 6 on the market several months ago, said the source.

But having failed to offload the property, the Hainan-based company, founded in 1993, is now considering using it as collateral for a loan to raise funds, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The owner of House 6, according to the Land Registry, is a company called Fortune Runner Hong Kong Investment, which bought it in 2015 for HK$506 million, or HK$119,300 per square foot.

Company registry information shows that three of Fortune Runner’s directors are senior executives with HNA Group (International), the major offshore arm of HNA Group. One of them is Wang Shuang, vice-chairman and chief executive.

One of the company’s founders and chairmen, the Chinese aviation tycoon Chen Feng, usually stays at the Twelve Peaks property when he visits Hong Kong, according to the source.

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HNA was unavailable for comment when contacted by the Post.

The house is part of the development consisting of a dozen spacious, three-storey luxury houses built on the site at 12 Mount Kellett Road, which prides itself on extreme privacy. Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) bought the site in 2006 for HK$1.8 billion, or HK$42,196 per square foot, a record at the time.

At 4,241 square feet the home, which is hidden behind greenery, is compact by luxury standards. It comes with a swimming pool, elevator and a 2,542-square foot garden. Its exclusive location on the city’s famous Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island, affords the development spectacular views of the city.

Earlier this week, SHKP sold the 4,784 square foot House 8 for HK$730 million or HK$152,592 per sq ft. A tax rebate of 15 per cent from the developer to the buyer, brought the price down to HK$620 million, or HK$129,702 sq ft , making it one of the most expensive houses in Asia.

The disposal of House 6 marks HNA’s latest move in a series of major divestments that has seen the group offload assets worth more than US$15 billion since late last year.

The company had been on a vast shopping spree in recent year, snapping up US$40 billion of assets. But that all came to a sudden stop a year ago when mainland regulators ordered HNA and other acquisitive companies like Anbang Group and Dalian Wanda Group to unwind their highly leveraged positions.

Beijing was worried that the overseas binge had been backed by risky financing channels creating a web of interwoven debt that involved mainland financial institutions.

Since late last year, HNA has been busy downsizing, offloading stakes in Hilton Worldwide Holdings for US$1.1 billion, a 25 per cent stake in Spain’s NH Hotel Group for US$726 million and an office tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for US$320 million.

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In Hong Kong, the group has sold three prime plots of land at the site of the former Kai Tak airport for HK$22.2 billion.

It bought four plots in the area for a total HK$27.2 billion between November 2016 and March last year.

Last week, local media reported the group was seeking tenants to take over four floors of its space in Hong Kong’s prime office building, the Three Exchange Square, which accounts for half of its office footprint in the city.

HNA has told creditors it could have a liquidity shortfall of at least 15 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion) in the first quarter and that it is targeting about 100 billion yuan in asset sales during the first half, Bloomberg reported earlier this year.

In recent months, HNA’s retreat and efforts to get back into Beijing’s good books seem to have been paying off.

At the Boao Forum in April, the group signed a framework agreement with Singapore’s state investment company Temasek Holdings to explore opportunities in aviation and logistics, and airport infrastructure.

On June 8, Temasek agreed to acquire a 20 per cent stake of the HNA-controlled Hainan Airlines for 7 billion yuan, marking the first major injection of foreign sovereign capital into HNA since it found itself under Beijing’s regulatory spotlight.

News of the house sale came as the company announced on Wednesday that chairman and co-founder Wang Jian, 57, had died suddenly during a business trip to France.