Thursday, 5 July 2018

Mysterious Circumstances, Mysterious Death

HNA group chairman Wang Jian died while visiting France
Just what happened to HNA group chairman Wang Jian?

It's shocking to hear the 57-year-old was posing on a wall in the small village of Bonnieux in Provence, France, when he fell 15 metres and then died from his injuries.

He was apparently trying to pose for a photograph when he fell from the wall that overlooked a cliff. He tumbled 10 to 15 metres to the rocks below.

Wang and Chen Feng set up the regional airline, HNA
Definitely not a good way to go.

It's an unfortunate time for Wang to pass away when his company, HNA is feeling the pressure from the Chinese government to shed its acquisitions that have been bought on ever increasing debt.

When Wang started HNA with co-founder Chen Feng, the company was a small regional airline based in Hainan province. From there it somehow managed to leverage its assets to become a conglomerate with assets worth and staggering US$230 billion.

Wang was apparently the mastermind behind all these deals, including a 25 percent stake in Hilton Hotels, Deutsche Bank, and four plots of land in Kai Tak it bought at record prices. It had planned to use some of the land to build housing for its staff.

The company also bought a luxury home on the Peak now worth around HK$550 million and is hoping to use it as collateral to pay off some of its debts. Who wants to underwrite that deal?

HNA bought four plots of land at Kai Tak at record prices
HNA even attempted to buy the hedge fund business set up by Anthony Scaramucci, a former White House communications director, but the deal was thwarted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an intergovernmental panel that reviews overseas acquisitions of American companies.

But those ambitious dreams are over now that HNA has had to shed these acquisitions as fast as it it has bought them in the first place.

Also questionable are some of the public listed companies under HNA. Seven of those companies have had their shares suspended for months, pending on what the parent group said was a restructuring.

Then HNA said the companies would resume trading on June 9, but since then the company has not announced any new changes to its business and the shares remain suspended.

There are still questions around who really owns HNA. Wang and Chen each own a 15 percent stake, there's another mysterious shareholder, Guan Jun, who has transferred his 30 percent stake of the company into a charitable trust that was set up in New York.

Guo Wengui has claimed HNA has bribed officials
Why would he donate his shares to a charity called Hainan Cihang Charity Foundation?

Fugitive billionaire Guo Wengui has been posting images and documents on Twitter and YouTube, alleging that HNA has bribed government officials and given relatives of at least one senior government official a major stake in the company -- possibly through Guan.

HNA had strongly denied the allegations and vowed to file a defamation suit against Guo, who once had close ties to China's top spy agency.

What's interesting is that the media went through great lengths to verify Wang's death, calling the gendarmeries in Provence, because with the way things go with HNA, you are never quite sure if they are true or not...

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