January 20, 2019

HNA group: China conglomerate boss Wang Jian dies in Provence

06 July 2018, 05:41 | Joann Bryant

AFPWang Jian has died during a business trip in France

Wang Jian of HNA Group

The co-chairman of HNA Group, a conglomerate that operates China's fourth-largest airline and finance, logistics and other businesses around the world, has died on Tuesday, July 3, 2018, in an accident while on a business trip in France, the company announced Wednesday.

After years of empire-building, the company that once symbolized China's insatiable appetite for global assets has reversed course, selling more than $14 billion of buildings and shares, including its multibillion-dollar stake in Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. Borrowing costs soared as its interim report showed the conglomerate paid the highest interest expense among non-financial companies in Asia, a trend that continued through 2017.

And this week, HNA canceled its A$280 million ($207 million) debt-funded offer to buy the refrigerated trucking arm of Australia's Automotive Holdings Group Ltd.

On paper these are all solid companies with shiny brand names, while HNA had assets hovering around the $80 billion mark, the Financial Times reported in 2016. Three mainland-listed units that are still trading lost between 1% and 4.3% during the day.

Wang's death couldn't have come at a worse time, said Brock Silvers, founder and managing director of Kaiyuan Capital, a Shanghai-based investment advisory firm. According to the forecasts we are talking about the deals for $ 14 billion. Wang was unconsciousness after falling from the wall.

According to various sources, he fell between 12m (39ft) and 15m (49ft).

Another friend of Wang's who dined with him a month ago, told Caixin that Wang said during the meal that he had been having heart problems and that his blood pressure had been unstable. "He had been under great pressure recently".

Thursday, July 5, the Chinese company Hainan Airlines (HNA) Group issued a statement which stressed that the sudden death of one of its founders will not affect the future development of HNA. Last year, the company also took the unusual step of disclosing its shareholding structure. Numerous companies also came under scrutiny for their opaque ownership structures.

Wang, who held a stake of just under 15 percent in the group, was in charge of its strategy and ran day-to-day operations, sources familiar with the matter have said, while his fellow chairman, Chen Feng, was often the public face of the conglomerate. This explains why HNA's dollar bonds fell after the company confirmed the news of his death.

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