HNA Unloads More Land in Hong Kong as Selling Spree Picks Up

(Bloomberg) -- HNA Group Co. is poised to dispose of a plot of land in Hong Kong to local property developer Wheelock & Co. for HK$6.36 billion ($811 million) as the embattled Chinese conglomerate accelerates its selling spree to repay debts.

A binding offer for the site, which spans 7,318 square meters (79,000 square feet) around the former Kai Tak airport, was made on March 8 and the deal is likely to be completed by May 16, according to a regulatory filing from Wheelock on Friday. The bid is about 15 percent higher than what HNA paid for the site last year, according to government records.

The announcement comes weeks after HNA sold two pieces of nearby land to local billionaire Lee Shau Kee’s Henderson Land Development Co. for $2 billion, about 12 percent more than what HNA spent. The move builds on the once-acquisitive Chinese conglomerate’s recent focus toward asset disposals after the company borrowed beyond its means to expand.

"They were lucky to be able to sell at these prices," said Raymond Cheng, a property analyst at CIMB Securities Ltd. "The market knows HNA has problems but there were probably so many bidders for this land or otherwise buyers would not have paid such a high price."

The disposal may help ease the financial strain HNA has been under after spending tens of billions of dollars on debt-fueled acquisitions to snap up assets including large stakes in Deutsche Bank AG and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. The group has told creditors it could have a liquidity shortfall of at least 15 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) in the first quarter and that HNA is targeting about 100 billion yuan in asset sales during the first half, people familiar with the situation have said.

HNA Unloads More Land in Hong Kong as Selling Spree Picks Up

HNA bought four plots in the area for a total HK$27.2 billion between November 2016 and March last year, outbidding local developers with what CIMB’s Cheng described to be "crazy" prices at the time for the sites, which were among the most hotly contested during that period. Prices have surged more than 40 percent in the area since HNA began gobbling up property there, he said.

Read more: Race heats up for HNA’s last site in Hong Kong

Though HNA’s paper profit from the sale of the three Kai Tak plots appears to exceed $300 million, Cheng said that after factoring in financing expenses and other sunk costs, the company probably just broke even on the investment. For Wheelock, the offer represents a fair deal and the developer is likely going to be able to fetch as much as HK$30,000 per square foot within three years, he said.

HNA still has one site left in Kai Tak -- New Kowloon Inland Lot No. 6563 -- which spans 9,482 square meters and was bought by HNA’s Hong Kong International Construction Investment Management Group Co. HK$7.44 billion. Shares of HKCIM Group, which also bought the land being sold to Wheelock, were halted from trading on Friday.

Separately, HNA has held preliminary talks with investors including Brookfield Asset Management Inc. about selling a pair of office buildings in London’s Canary Wharf district, according to people with knowledge of the matter. In the U.S., the Chinese conglomerate is selling properties valued at about $4 billion -- including the 245 Park Ave. skyscraper it bought less than a year ago for one of the highest prices ever paid for a building in New York -- according to a marketing document seen by Bloomberg. In late January, HNA agreed to sell a Sydney office building to Blackstone for A$205 million ($159 million).

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.