March 22, 2018 / 7:00 AM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-China's HNA Group clears $475 mln fuel bill - sources

(Adds quote, details on settlement)

By Chen Aizhu and Matthew Miller

BEIJING, March 22 (Reuters) - China’s HNA Group has paid a more than 3 billion yuan ($474.5 million) jet fuel bill, ending months of contentious discussions between the embattled aviation-to-financial services conglomerate and a state-run aviation fuel company, two people with knowledge of the matter said on Thursday.

Facing a cash crunch following $50 billion in acquisitions, HNA settled the bill last week with a cash transfer to China National Aviation Fuel Group Ltd (CNAF), said one of the sources.

HNA Group was not available for comment. A CNAF spokesman said he could not confirm the arrangements.

HNA’s outstanding balance with CNAF, China’s near-monopoly marketer and distributor of aviation fuel, had swelled significantly over the previous six month, Reuters reported last month.

In recent weeks, HNA had offered various solutions to settle the jet fuel bill, including the transfer of stakes in joint venture firms and real estate assets.

“The bill was sorted out after CNAF’s communications with the senior management of HNA Group,” the person said.

The fuel supplier normally gives customers one month credit period and the over 3 billion yuan bill was the backlogs that went beyond due dates, the person added.

The best solution for CNAF was cash, the person said, since the transfer of stakes HNA offered would take much longer to materialise.

HNA has off-loaded more than $6 billion in prime real estate in Australia, New York and Hong Kong, while selling shares in Deutsche Bank, Park Hotels & Resorts, and Hilton Grand Vacations Inc.

In Hainan, HNA also is searching for “strategic partners” for its wide portfolio of investments, including in its 100 billion yuan Haikou central business district development.

Earlier this month, HNA Infrastructure Investment Group (600515.SS) said it would sell a Hainan-based property company and logistics unit to Sunac China, a real estate developer, for 1.9 billion yuan. ($1 = 6.3219 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Chen Aizhu and Matthew Miller; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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