HNA Group discloses ownership shift

Updated 2017-07-25 16:14:25 Global Times

Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which recently took on an aggressive global shopping spree, disclosed its ownership shake-up in an apparent move to allay rising concerns over its shareholding structure.

The privately held company - which started as a regional airline and grew to an acquisitive global player with assets worth billions of dollars across the world - is now controlled by two charitable foundations the company established. Together, the foundations hold more than a 50 percent stake in the company, according to an open letter the company sent to its employees, clients and partners.Chen Feng and Wang Jian, the founders and chairmen of HNA Group, individually hold 14.98 percent stakes in the company, the letter said. Chen and Wang, along with 10 other individuals, hold 47.5 percent, according to the letter.

But questions still remain about its mysterious investor named Guan Juan, who was reportedly the largest individual shareholder in HNA and recently donated 30 percent of his shares to Hainan Cihang Charity Foundation Inc, making the latest ownership shift possible, according to multiple media reports.

In response to inquiries about Guan from financial news site yicai.com, HNA confirmed that Guan donated his stake in the company to Cihang Foundation but said the individual has never held any position in the company, yicai.com reported on Tuesday.

Cihang Foundation, which was set up in New York recently, now owns a 29.5 percent stake in HNA and its sister organization in China holds 22.75 percent, according to the company's letter.

HNA said it decided to set up the charitable foundation in New York because the company is pursuing more and more overseas operations and charitable projects, according to yicai.com.HNA has been under heavy pressure from frequent questions raised about its shareholding structure in deals overseas, including a deal to acquire New York-based SkyBridge Capital, which is still awaiting regulatory approval in the U.S.

Also, some media reports said the Bank of America had recently backed away from doing business with HNA due to concerns over its ownership structure.

In its letter on Monday, HNA defended its ownership structure, saying it has "effectively resolved contradictory problems between fairness and efficiency, which troubled development."

The group further said it would disclose ownership changes each year despite being a private company.

"Although HNA Group is a private company and has no obligation to disclose shareholding structure, we respect and agree with the request for transparency regarding this type of information," the letter reads.

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