SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - HNA Group's partner in an overseas property trust is exploring ways to potentially scale back its ties to the embattled Chinese conglomerate, people with knowledge of the matter said.
AEP Investment Management is weighing options for reducing HNA Group's involvement in the planned Singapore initial public offering of HNA Commercial REIT, which was going to be backed by about S$1 billion of properties from the two partners, according to the people. All possibilities are under consideration, including lowering the stake HNA Group would take in the trust and the company that manages it, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.
AEP has begun reaching out to other potential partners to gauge their interest in taking a role backing the property trust, the people said. The Singapore-based company, which started preparations for the listing last year before bringing in HNA Group, is also considering whether to reduce the trust's reliance on real estate from the Chinese firm, the people said. HNA Group was slated to initially contribute one property to the REIT, while AEP was going to provide four assets, according to a June exchange filing.
The HNA Commercial REIT offering will be postponed as AEP works out its future relationship with its Chinese partner, according to the people. For now, AEP intends to keep some level of involvement with HNA Group, the people said. No final decisions have been made, and it's possible AEP will decide not to make any changes to the deal structure, the people said.
"HNA's cooperation with AEP is normal," the Chinese conglomerate said in an emailed statement. "The information in this story isn't in line with the actual situation." A representative for AEP didn't respond to phone calls and an email seeking comment. The companies are still aiming to complete the offering this year, though it could slip into 2018, the people said.
Several of HNA Group's deals have faced challenges since Chinese regulators began assessing the risks that the company and other serial dealmakers pose to the nation's financial system. HNA Group has been fielding additional questions from banks working to finance its proposed US$1 billion (S$1.38 billion) takeover of Singapore logistics operator CWT, while US officials are examining its proposed purchase of Anthony Scaramucci's SkyBridge Capital.
HNA Investment Group, a Shenzhen-listed arm of the Chinese conglomerate, announced in March it planned to buy at least a 35 per cent stake in a REIT that will list in Singapore, as well as 75 per cent of a trust management company formed with AEP. The IPO was slated to raise more than US$400 million, people with knowledge of the matter have said.
The trust started seeking more arrangers for the planned offering after Bank of America Corp. decided to walk away from the deal, people with knowledge of the matter said last week. HNA Commercial REIT had been planning to gauge investor demand in mid-June and complete the offering in July, people with knowledge of the matter have said.