HNA Group Co.’s proposed $416 million investment in an in-flight entertainment and Internet-services provider collapsed after the two companies failed to get regulatory approval from the U.S., in the latest setback for the acquisitive Chinese group.
The plan, in which HNA’s Beijing Shareco Technologies Co. would invest in Los Angeles-based Global Eagle Entertainment Inc., was terminated after failing to obtain the go-ahead from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, Global Eagle said in a U.S. regulatory filing late Tuesday. The investment was announced in November.
The group, which started with a regional airline in the southern Chinese island of Hainan, has been on a buying spree, taking on at least $73 billion of debt as it transformed from a small regional carrier into a global conglomerate with holdings including stakes in Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG. More recently, the company has been under mounting scrutiny in China, the U.S. and Europe over some of its purchases.
U.S. officials are said to be reviewing HNA’s purchase of SkyBridge Capital, the hedge-fund firm founded by White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, while the European Central Bank is considering a review of the company’s stake in Deutsche Bank and Chinese regulators are assessing the risks posed by HNA and other active acquirers to the nation’s financial system. Some of the biggest U.S. and Chinese banks have distanced themselves from the company, people familiar with the matter have said, though HNA denies that is the case.
HNA has announced more than $40 billion of deals since the beginning of 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Its pending transactions include the planned takeovers of Singapore-based logistics firm CWT Ltd., Glencore Plc’s oil storage business, a majority stake in Brazilian airport operator Rio de Janeiro Aeroportos SAand Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.’s UDC Finance.
Shareco representatives couldn’t immediately comment. On Monday, Shareco filed a statement on China’s National Equities Exchange and Quotations that it decided to terminate a “material asset restructuring” transaction, without naming Global Eagle.
Shareco and Global Eagle will continue to cooperate under an existing commercial agreement for the U.S. company’s provision of equipment and services for in-flight entertainment and connectivity to Hainan Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines and Yangtze River Airlines, according to the filing.
HNA has been under pressure lately. The group was among several prolific Chinese acquirers of foreign assets — the others being Fosun International Ltd., Dalian Wanda Group Co., Anbang Insurance Group Co. and the buyer of the AC Milan soccer club — whose loans have been under the scrutiny of the nation’s banking regulator.
HNA’s ownership has also been under attack from Guo Wengui, a fugitive Chinese tycoon who’s been alleging HNA has secret ties to powerful Communist Party officials — claims denied by the company. Guo is facing defamation lawsuits from HNA and others over his various claims. To dispel concerns about its ownership, HNA earlier this week revealed it’s controlled by two company-related charities.
— With assistance by Dong Lyu, Ben Livesey, and Prudence Ho