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China's HNA Group seeks buyer for US$300m 'Dream Jet': sources

CASH-strapped Chinese conglomerate HNA Group has put up for sale its luxurious US$300-million-plus corporate "Dream Jet" that sports a "seven-star" hotel-style cabin, said six aviation industry sources familiar with the matter.

The 40-seat Boeing 787 jet with registration "2-DEER", used for charters as well as by top HNA officials, recently took Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to the UN General Assembly in New York and flew between Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of Congo, and Beijing, on dates coinciding with a visit to China by President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

Under pressure from Beijing, aviation-to-hotels group HNA has in 2018 sold real estate, stakes in overseas companies and aviation-related assets after a US$50 billion acquisition spree in recent years.

One of the industry sources said HNA was attempting to sell the fleet in its wholly-owned private Deer Jet division and then shut it down.

The jet was put on the market in late July, after co-chairman Wang Jian died in an accidental fall in France, another source said.

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It could prove difficult to attract close to the purchase price for the 40-seat 787, because of the limited market for wide-body private jets, which are usually bought by governments or billionaires who prefer to select their own interior design, two of the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

A 787-8 business jet has a list price of US$232 million, but the interiors typically cost US$90-US$170 million, according to Boeing.

The interiors of the HNA jet, registered as "2-DEER" in Guernsey, dubbed the "Dream Jet" and featuring a 17-hour non-stop range, took 2.5 years to complete, Deer Jet said on its website.

"A lot of the large aircraft have to go for two-thirds of the (original) price or half the price because whoever buys it will have different thinking on interiors," one of the sources said. "Nobody is going to spend that money and sit in somebody else's bed with a different cushion. They want what they want." Some of the fittings are by designers such as Baccarat and Fendi, according to a Deer Jet tweet in 2016. A brochure for charter clients seen by Reuters calls 2-DEER a "flying home" with 26 lie-flat beds.

Deer Jet's Beijing office is open to serious offers and has not assigned a jet broker, one of the sources said.

HNA and Deer Jet declined to comment on 2-DEER. They were not immediately available for comment on whether the rest of the fleet was for sale after Bloomberg on Thursday first reported that Deer Jet was looking to sell "dozens of jets".

Since January, HNA has sold or agreed to sell more than US$20 billion worth of assets, including real estate in Sydney, New York and Hong Kong, according to Reuters calculations and media reports.

"We do understand that as they are doing the corporate restructuring, they are intending to sell the 787," one of the sources said. "It is a very expensive aircraft, due to the operational costs." The HNA jet had originally been owned by Dell Technologies Inc founder and chairman Michael Dell, one of the sources said. A spokesman for Dell's private interests declined to comment.

Boeing said it had sold 15 787 business jets, with 12 delivered to date. Two other Boeing 787 business jets globally are also for sale, sources said.

HNA's 787 was unveiled publicly in 2016 at a European business jet show and has been available for charters to VIPs, including world leaders, at a cost of around US$74,000 an hour.

Mr Hun Sen used 2-DEER to visit the UN headquarters in New York as well as Brussels, Istanbul and Geneva over the last month, a Cambodian government spokesman confirmed on Wednesday.

The spokesman had no comment on whether the government was interested in buying the jet, which used the flight number KHM01 for the leader's flights, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24. REUTERS

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