HNA Group

HNA to offload its US$1.4 billion stake in Hilton spin-off as it rushes to raise cash and slash debt

Conglomerate continues to look for ways of paying down debt as Chinese authorities cast spotlight on overseas investment and acquisition sprees by domestic corporate heavyweights

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 March, 2018, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 April, 2018, 11:37am

HNA Group, ladened with huge debt and already firmly under China’s regulatory spotlight, plans to sell its 25 per cent stake in the real-estate business spin-off of Hilton Worldwide Holdings – Park Hotels and Resorts Inc – as it rushes to pay down its excessive borrowing.

But some fund managers say the process to offload its assets is already appearing “confused”.

The Chinese conglomerate, which has spent more than US$40 billion in the past three years amid

a high-profile international acquisition spree, is already planning huge job cuts and accelerating the sale of overseas assets, as the Chinese authorities crack down on companies’ offshore investments, particularly in real estate, hotels, and movie studios.

China lists ‘sensitive sectors’ as it tightens curbs on overseas investments

HNA is “pursuing a sale of some or all of the ordinary shares” it currently holds in Park Hotels and Resorts, according to a filing by the Virginia-based company on Friday.

“The exact timing, manner and terms of any such sale would be subject to market conditions and other considerations.”

Its overseas investment push fell under scrutiny last year, alongside those of other highly acquisitive Chinese companies including Fosun Group, Dalian Wanda Group, and Anbang Insurance Group.

Aggressive offshore mergers and acquisitions by Chinese firms have raised concern in Beijing over capital outflows and financial risks taken on by China’s banks.

The quarter stake in Park Hotels and Resorts is worth around US$1.4 billion, based on its current market cap of US$5.6 billion. HNA declined to comment on the sale.

HNA to axe 100,000 jobs, quarter of its workforce, says report

Shares in Park Hotels and Resorts surged 3.9 per cent to US$26.95 in Thursday’s after-hour trading in New York, having ended down 0.2 per cent, for the day.

HNA bought a quarter stake in Hilton Worldwide in 2016 from its biggest shareholder, the major US private equity firm Blackstone Group for US$6.5 billion.

Later that year, Hilton Worldwide split into three independent units – Park Hotels and Resorts, timeshare business Hilton Grand Vacations and the franchise, fee-based business of Hilton Worldwide – giving HNA a 25 per cent stake in each.

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The split was aimed at creating more efficient companies and improved long-term shareholder value , according to the company’s executives back then.

Park Hotels and Resorts owns 55 upscale Hilton hotels and resorts worldwide, including the Hilton New York Midtown and the Waldorf Astoria beach resort in Key West, Florida.

Everyone has been approached (by HNA) about various parts of their portfolio. But the process is too confusing
Manager at one of HNA’s other institutional investors, who asked not to be named

HNA is also believed to be bringing down the axe on a massive 100,000 jobs this year, a quarter of its global workforce, according to a report by Risk Event-Driven and Distressed Intelligence earlier this week.

Earlier this year, the company sold an office building in Sydney for US$205 million and then unloaded two land plots in Hong Kong for HK$16 billion (US$2.04 billion).

But analysts say some of its sell-off processes have started to have a negative effect.

“Everyone has been approached (by HNA) about various parts of their portfolio. But the process is too confusing,” said a manager at one of its other institutional investors, who asked not to be named.

“We have been approached by four groups, all from HNA, offering us various parts of its portfolios from four properties to 12 properties spanning from US to Europe. But some of them overlapped with each other.”

“We did not know which group was the seller,” he said.

HNA Group has suspended stock trading of a number of its listed units in China, including HNA Holdings, HNA Infrastructure, and HNA Investment Group, citing potential “significant asset restructuring” deals.