July 20, 2018 / 2:26 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-Investors dump stocks linked to China's debt-laden HNA Group

* Trading in airline’s shares has been halted since Jan

* Other HNA-linked firms also slump after resuming trading

* Analyst says restructuring plans fell below expectations (Recasts, updates with analyst and HNA comment)

By Brenda Goh

SHANGHAI, July 20 (Reuters) - Shares in companies linked to HNA Group slumped after resuming trading this week, highlighting investor concern over the embattled Chinese conglomerate whose opaque ownership structure has sparked global regulatory scrutiny.

The decline was led by Hainan Airlines , China’s fourth-largest airline and HNA’s crown jewel, which opened 9.9 percent lower on Friday after it lifted a six-month trading suspension.

HNA-affiliated CCOOP Group Co Ltd, which also resumed trading on Friday, opened 10 percent lower, while Caissa Travel also tumbled by the daily limit of 10 percent when it opened after a six-month halt on Thursday.

Aviation-to-financial services conglomerate HNA has been selling equity and real estate assets after a $50-billion acquisition spree turned sour. Hainan Airlines has been part of that effort, saying in March that it would take over stakes owned by HNA in airlines and hotel units.

In June, the carrier said it would issue shares to up to 10 investors to raise up to 7 billion yuan ($1 billion) to fund aircraft purchases and those stake acquisitions. It added that its owner would become Hainan Province Cihang Foundation, which is connected to HNA Group, after its restructuring.

Friday’s share slump was a vote of no-confidence in the plan, one analyst from a Shanghai-based brokerage said.

“Previously it said it would buy a few other assets but these are not included in the latest plan ... so the feeling is that the restructuring is not going as smoothly as previously thought,” he said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.

Hainan Airlines said last month that its restructuring would exclude previous plans to take stakes in Guilin Airlines, HNA Hospitality Group and an unnamed overseas hotel operator as the company had not completed due diligence. The analyst added that the carrier’s shares also could be reacting to broad declines in Chinese airline stocks, linked to rising oil prices and a falling yuan.

An HNA spokesman said in an email that the publicly traded firms were an important part of the group’s portfolio.

“We will continue to work closely with them as part of our overall strategy to streamline our asset portfolio and improve our financial and operational performance,” he said.

Trading in shares of HNA Investment Group Co Ltd , HNA Infrastructure Investment Group, and Tianjin Tianhai Investment Co Ltd, which were also suspended in January, have yet to resume.

The companies said their suspensions were due to pending restructuring announcements that could have an impact on their share prices.

$1 = 6.7864 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional Reporting by SHANGHAI Newsroom; Editing by Stephen Coates

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