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Temasek, others to buy Hainan Airlines stake for 7b yuan

Hainan Airlines services about 1,800 domestic and international routes, reaching over 220 cities worldwide with a fleet of over 300 aircraft, according to its website.


HAINAN Airlines Holding Co plans to raise as much as seven billion yuan (S$1.5 billion) by selling shares to investors, including an arm of Singapore investment company Temasek Holdings Pte, as part of a restructuring planned by the unit of Chinese conglomerate HNA Group Co.

The Haikou, Hainan-based carrier is selling up to 20 per cent of its Shanghai-listed shares to 10 investors, the company said in a statement on June 9.

Proceeds from the sale will be used to fund plane purchases, aviation training, maintenance and airport business.

The stake sale announcement follows two months after Temasek and the indebted HNA group said they were exploring partnerships in areas including aviation, logistics and airport infrastructure.

Hainan Airlines' restructuring plans involve consolidation of HNA's various aviation assets under one umbrella and the carrier has said it is looking to buy stakes worth 10.5 billion yuan in HNA subsidiaries engaged in related businesses.

A spokesman for Temasek declined to comment further on the filing by Hainan Airlines.

Hainan Airlines, started by one of HNA's founders, Chen Feng, began operations in 1993 and counted George Soros among its early investors. Riding the economic boom in China and the surge in travel demand, the carrier now services about 1,800 domestic and international routes reaching over 220 cities worldwide with a fleet of more than 300 aircraft, according to its website.

Providing clarity on its ownership, Hainan Airlines said its controlling shareholder will change to HNA Group and parties acting in concert, from Grand China Air Co. The ultimate controlling party will change from the Hainan branch of State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, or Sasac, to the Cihang Foundation.

Two charities - Hainan Cihang Charity Foundation Inc and Hainan Province Cihang Foundation - own a majority stake in HNA.

The conglomerate has been the subject of scrutiny worldwide by investors and regulators after piling up debt from a US$40 billion acquisition spree starting 2016.

Concerns over the group's finances have eased this year after a flurry of asset sales, including the US$6.5 billion stake sale in Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc, which helped many of HNA's bonds rebound from their record lows.

Shares of Hainan Airlines will remain suspended, the carrier said in a separate statement on Saturday.

The company is one of seven HNA listed units that have halted trading, locking about US$31 billion of combined market value, the largest swathe of frozen stock tied to a single business group in China.

Though it is common for firms in China to suspend their shares citing reorganisations, companies in the country have a history of using trading halts to prevent their stocks from sliding. BLOOMBERG

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