HNA reveals it is controlled by 2 charities

China conglomerate seeks to dispel concerns over its debt levels and ownership structure

HONG KONG • HNA Group has disclosed that it is controlled by a couple of charities as the acquisitive Chinese conglomerate, whose overseas investments have come under scrutiny, seeks to dispel concerns about its ownership structure.

Two charities - New York-based Hainan Cihang Charity Foundation and China-based Hainan Province Cihang Foundation - own 52 per cent of HNA Group, according to a company statement on Monday.

Twelve HNA officials, including founders Chen Feng and Wang Jian, hold about 47.5 per cent, with the rest held by Hainan Airlines Holding, according to the statement.

Little is known about how the philanthropic organisations are managed and how votes are cast, though the company says its donations have reached tens of billions of yuan.

HNA said it plans to update its ownership status annually and that the executives plan to donate all their shares to the charities should they resign or die. Eventually, HNA expects the foundations to own 100 per cent of the group.

The statement represents HNA's most detailed disclosure about its ownership and comes as the group faces increasing scrutiny - and as it tries to purchase the hedge-fund firm of White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has told investment bankers to stop working on transactions with HNA for now amid growing concerns about the group's debt levels and ownership structure, people familiar with the matter said last week.

Monday's figures differ from data available as recently as late last year, when corporate filings showed that a businessman named Guan Jun owned a 29 per cent stake via two holding firms. He does not show up in HNA's latest statement. Little is known about him. HNA said he recently donated his shares to Cihang.

HNA has been under pressure. It was among several prolific Chinese acquirers of foreign assets - the others being Fosun International, Dalian Wanda Group, Anbang Insurance Group and the buyer of soccer club AC Milan - whose loans have been under the scrutiny of the nation's banking regulator.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2017, with the headline 'HNA reveals it is controlled by 2 charities'. Print Edition | Subscribe