December 22, 2017 / 4:00 AM / 2 months ago

HNA gains Austrian nod for C-Quadrat takeover in respite from setbacks

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - HNA Group’s plan to take a majority stake in Vienna-based C-Quadrat Investment AG (C8I.VI) has gained approval from Austrian regulators, a rare recent win for the acquisitive Chinese conglomerate amid rising global pushback on its deals.

HNA [HNAIRC.UL], which has announced acquisitions worth more than $50 billion in the past two years, has faced growing questions about its governance and ownership structure. Just this week, New Zealand blocked HNA’s $460 million purchase of a finance unit.

C-Quadrat, worth some 226.9 million euros ($270 million) by market value, is the company through which HNA holds its near 10 percent stake in Germany’s Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE).

The investment manager said in a filing late on Thursday that it had been informed that Austria’s Financial Market Authority had “no objections” to the deal.

The deal, which still needs approval from the Central Bank of Armenia, would see HNA own 74.8 percent of a third company Cubic, which in turn will hold more than 98 percent of C-Quadrat, the Austrian firm said. HNA currently owns a smaller minority stake in C-Quadrat.

HNA said in an emailed statement to Reuters that it had fully cooperated with the Austrian regulator in its review and was very pleased by its decision to approve the deal.

In New Zealand, the Overseas Investment Office cited lack of clarity over HNA’s ownership structure for the rejection of its plan to buy a vehicle finance firm owned by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ.AX).

In other setbacks, Swiss regulators last month found the group had failed to disclose that company executives held controlling stakes in the conglomerate in submissions relating to HNA’s $1.5 billion takeover in 2016 of Gategroup, the airline catering group.

    Earlier this month HNA was sued by Ness Technologies who accused it of failing to adequately answer questions in a U.S. review, thereby causing a $325 million deal between the two to fail. HNA said the lawsuit was “baseless”.

    HNA has also been facing questions over its finances.

    Last week, China Citic Bank Corp (601998.SS) (0998.HK) said HNA was “experiencing temporary liquidity difficulties”, including difficulty repaying a commercial acceptance bill pledged by Hainan Airlines Holding Co (600221.SS), the conglomerate’s flagship carrier.

    HNA said in its response its cooperation with Citic Bank was “fully normal” and denied the group was facing any temporary liquidity difficulties or that there were any repayment delays.

    (This version of the story has been refiled to correct typographical error in headline)

    Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Additional reporting by Julie Zhu in Hong Kong; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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