HONG KONG—Chinese conglomerate HNA Group has turned to state-owned China Cinda Asset Management Co among the country’s largest bad debt managers, for advice on asset disposals, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
HNA Group’s vice president, Dennis Chen, the nephew of its chairman Chen Feng, met with Cinda President Chen Xiaozhou on Nov. 20 to discuss cooperation, according to the people, who declined to be named as the information is confidential.
It was not immediately clear what role Beijing-based Cinda is playing in HNA’s asset disposals, but at the meeting, Cinda told HNA it stood ready to help, according to an internal memo sent to HNA staff and reviewed by Reuters.
“Cinda will continue to support HNA’s strategic transformation and its asset disposals in core and auxiliary businesses,” Cinda’s president said, according to the memo.
“Especially when HNA is in a relatively difficult time, there is all the more reason for us to increase our support,” the president added.
HNA has attracted much scrutiny for its $50 billion worth of deals in recent years that included hotels in the United States and left it the largest shareholder in Deutsche Bank.
Faced with soaring debts and China’s crackdown on aggressive dealmaking firms, the airlines-to-finance conglomerate has been pushing ahead with a series of asset sales that have so far included real estate and stakes in hotel groups.
It has also offered up its much-hyped luxury $300-million-plus corporate “Dream Jet.”
This week, HNA-controlled Hainan Airlines announced the sale of a 40 percent stake in Urumqi Air to a local government entity for an undisclosed amount.
The conglomerate has also offloaded a 25 percent holding in asset manager BrightSphere, worth about $343 million, to U.S. hedge fund manager John Paulson.
Last week, chairman Chen told domestic business magazine Caijing that HNA had sold almost 300 billion yuan ($43 billion) in assets this year and would continue the disposals.
Cinda has already been involved in talks with potential buyers for Ingram Micro, the U.S. IT parts distributor that HNA bought for $6 billion in 2016, three people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The bad debt manager could also provide capital for a potential deal, according to one of the people.
An HNA spokesman declined to comment on this week’s meeting with Cinda, but added that neither HNA nor any of its affiliates or subsidiaries was working with Cinda to sell Ingram Micro and that “any suggestion to the contrary is patently false.”
Cinda did not respond to requests for comment. Ingram did not respond to a request for comment outside of office hours.
Any sale of Ingram Micro could be complicated by stepped-up powers recently awarded to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which scrutinizes foreign purchases of the country’s assets.
In 2016, CFIUS approved the HNA-Ingram deal so long as the U.S. company operated as a stand-alone entity.
But earlier this month, new rules aimed at curbing Chinese investment in 27 sensitive sectors gave the committee additional oversight of those sectors, which include telecommunications and semiconductors.
Several Chinese groups, including Cinda’s counterpart China Huarong Asset Management, have held discussions with HNA regarding Ingram, Reuters reported in May.
Huarong ended discussions on concerns over whether it could pass U.S. regulatory approvals.
HNA Technology Co, which owns Ingram, said in September it had $3.55 billion of debt outstanding from the purchase of the firm, of which $350 million was due this year.
By Kane Wu & Julie Zhu