January 19, 2018 / 11:41 AM / 2 years ago

HNA Group hires banks to sell shareholding in Spain's NH Hotel

FILE PHOTO: Illustration photo of the HNA logo December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) - China’s HNA [HNAIRC.UL] said on Friday it had hired banks to look for buyers of its majority stake in Spain’s NH Hotel Group (NHH.MC), just days after NH turned down a takeover offer from Spanish peer Barcelo.

The announcement also came a day after Reuters reported that the U.S. government would not approve any HNA investments in the United States until the Chinese aviation-to-property conglomerate provides adequate information on who its shareholders are.

HNA said it had hired JP Morgan and Benedetto, Gartland and Company to look for possible buyers of its 29.5 percent stake in Spain’s NH Hotel Group (NHH.MC). The stake is valued at around 632 million euros at current prices.

Spain’s hotel industry is booming and investment in the sector reached a record 3.9 billion euros ($4.8 billion) in 2017, according to property consultant Irea.

Last year Spain overtook the United States to become the second most visited country in the world after France, with the number of tourists boosted by security concerns in some rival markets in the Middle East and North Africa.

Heavily indebted HNA Group have had an acrimonious relationship with NH. Its representatives were ejected from NH’s board in 2016 after HNA’s purchase of rival hotel group Carlston-Rezidor led to accusations of conflict of interest.

Earlier this month NH, with nearly 400 hotels in 30 markets and a focus on city stays, rejected Barcelo’s offer, saying it undervalued the company. However, NH did not rule out taking part in any consolidation wave in the sector.

NH’s shares were little changed following the HNA statement, trading 0.5 percent higher at 6.1 euros. Its share price has risen by more than a fifth since Barcelo’s approach in November.

($1 = 0.8157 euros)

Additional reporting by Jesus Aguado; Editing by Gareth Jones

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