January 23, 2018 / 1:11 PM / in 9 months

UPDATE 1-China's CDB Aviation head says ready to help HNA

* HNA Group has acknowledged liquidity problems

* CDB Aviation exec says firm ready to help HNA (Adds BOC Aviation executive’s quotes)

By Tim Hepher

DUBLIN, Jan 23 (Reuters) - The head of the aviation leasing arm of China Development Bank said on Tuesday that HNA Group has solid airline operations and it would serve nobody’s interest to see the group collapse.

“CDB has the highest exposure of anyone in this case, so we are involved in discussing with them,” CEO Peter Chang told the Airline Economics conference in Dublin.

“I haven’t been called into the room yet since aviation is a smaller piece of it, but it is a very important piece. I anticipate that we will at some point. We would like to help. It doesn’t serve our purpose to see HNA collapse,” he said.

Last week, China’s aviation-to-financial services conglomerate HNA Group acknowledged liquidity problems after a merger spree and a slowdown in Chinese growth.

HNA’s airline operations are as good as any, Chang said.

“On that basis I presume that from a risk point of view, that would be preserved by all parties involved, government or otherwise,” he also said at the event.

“We are watching and reading the paper like everyone else. We are trying to engage and getting ourselves ready. The sooner HNA leadership realise they have a real problem, the sooner we can get to start working on it,” added Chang.

An executive with the aviation leasing unit of Bank of China told the same audience that no HNA-related airlines were more than 30 days late on payments, but that there were questions over whether cash was being sent to other parts of the group.

“The HNA airlines are themselves, in my opinion, generally good operations. They have good operational cashflow and can pay their bills,” David Walton, chief operating officer at BOC Aviation, said.

“The question is whether there is money being siphoned out for other uses within the group where the cashflow might not be quite so strong. So our focus is trying to keep track of where that cashflow is going,” added Walton. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

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