March 9, 2018 / 3:12 AM / 4 months ago

Freeing up liquidity: HNA sells Hong Kong site to Wheelock for $811 million

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China’s HNA Group [HNAIRC.UL] is selling a land parcel in Hong Kong to local developer Wheelock and Co Ltd (0020.HK) for $811.1 million (587.5 million pounds), the latest in a string of global asset disposals to ease its liquidity crunch.

FILE PHOTO: A HNA Group logo is seen on the building of HNA Plaza in Beijing, China February 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

The aviation-to-financial services conglomerate is racing to raise cash following a $50 billion acquisition spree over the past two years, which has sparked scrutiny of its opaque ownership and use of leverage.

HNA raised $1.3 billion earlier this week by offloading its entire 25 percent stake in Park Hotels & Resorts (PK.N), according to Reuters publication IFR.

On Friday, Wheelock said in a filing it would buy a residential site from a HNA Group unit for HK$6.36 billion ($811.1 million), as the developer expands its development property portfolio in Hong Kong’s Kai Tak area.

It will buy a 7,318 square metre (78,770 square foot) residential site from Omnilink Assets Ltd, a unit of the HNA-controlled Hong Kong International Construction Investment Management Group Co Ltd (0687.HK) (HKICIM), the Hong Kong developer said.

HKICIM bought the site for HK$5.53 billion last year, and three other land parcels in the same area located near a stretch of land northeast of the iconic Victoria harbour that used to be the old Kai Tak Airport’s runway.

The HNA unit has already sold two of the four land parcels last month to Henderson Land Development Co (0012.HK) for HK$16 billion.

HNA, one of the most acquisitive conglomerates, is not the only firm that faces liquidity pressure as Beijing has stepped up a broad crackdown on risky financing. Dalian Wanda Group, facing similar pressures, sold its property developments in the U.K. and Australia earlier this year. It also disposed a 17 percent stake in Atletico Madrid.

In February, the Chinese government announced it was taking control of Anbang Insurance Group [ANBANG.UL], saying it violated laws and regulations.

On Friday, trading in shares of HKICIM were suspended, while those of Wheelock climbed as much as 2.9 percent in early trade.

Wheelock said the deal will be funded by the group’s internal resources and bank borrowings.

Reporting by Donny Kwok and Clare Jim; Editing by Stephen Coates & Shri Navaratnam

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