HONG KONG (Reuters) - China’s HNA Group [HNAIRC.UL] is in talks with banks to find a buyer for its CWT logistics unit, nine months after it acquired the Singaporean business in a $1 billion deal, several people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The sale, if completed, would be the latest in a series of divestments aimed at slashing debt at the aviation-to-financial services conglomerate. HNA has attracted much scrutiny for its $50 billion worth of deals in recent years that included hotels in the United States and a stake in Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE).
For CWT, HNA is targeting a non-Chinese buyer, three sources said. Another person said only a part of CWT would be put up for sale. The sources declined to be named as HNA’s talks with investment banks for a buyer were confidential.
An HNA spokeswoman declined to comment.
The group completed the acquisition of Singapore-based CWT in December last year via a wholly owned subsidiary - HNA Belt and Road Investments Singapore.
The CWT business, spread across 90 countries, was folded into one of HNA’s listed units in Hong Kong that was renamed CWT International Ltd (0521.HK).
Besides logistics, CWT operates a commodity marketing business and also provides engineering services primarily in Singapore through a subsidiary.
“Some parties are conducting due diligence on CWT,” said one of the sources.
In July, the Hong Kong-listed CWT International said it had entered into a pact to sell and lease back five warehouse properties in Singapore for S$730 million ($533 million).
CWT International also said in its interim results that it had “certain borrowings”, raised to fund the purchase of Singapore’s CWT, due this month that it would be unable to repay unless it was able to get “sufficient cash sources” through refinancing.
Recent asset sales by HNA, which counts Hainan Airlines Co (600221.SS) as its core business, include holdings in companies such as Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc (HLT.N), Park Hotels & Resorts (PK.N) and Spain’s NH Hotels (NHH.MC).
In August, Japan’s Orix Corp (8591.T) struck a $2.2 billion deal to buy a 30 percent stake in HNA’s aircraft leasing business Avolon Holdings, the world’s No. 3 lessor.
HNA is also open to sell its stakes in Deutsche Bank, Virgin Australia Holdings (VAH.AX) and shipping container leasing company SeaCo, which it acquired in 2011 for $1 billion, according to separate sources.
The HNA spokeswoman declined to comment on this.
Assets not related to HNA’s core aviation business are being sold, several people close to the group have told Reuters.
The conglomerate’s total debt stood at $96 billion at the end of the first half of 2018. While this was 10.7 percent below end-2017 levels, its total debt to EBITDA was still 21.36 times by the end of June.
Reporting by Kane Wu, Julie Zhu, Sumeet Chatterjee in HONG KONG, and Anshuman Daga in SINGAPORE; Editing by Himani Sarkar