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[Update] HNA could sell Radisson Hotel Group

The Chinese conglomerate continues to sell assets to pay its debt.

HNA acquired Radisson in 2016, when it was still called Carlson Hotels. Today, the chain operates around 1,200 hotels around the world under eight brands. It also owns a controlling stake in Radisson Hospitality AB, the Brussels-based operator of hotels in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Also read: New rebound for HNA

Lately, HNA has been aggressively selling assets to pay down heavy debt incurred during a multi-year buying spree. It agreed to sell a Minneapolis office tower for $320 million to Samsung Group. In addition, the Chinese conglomerate has sold down stakes in Park Hotels (25%), Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (26.1%) while Minor Hotels acquired its shares in the NH Hotel Group.

Also read: HNA plans to sell $1.4 billion stake in Park Hotels

Also read: After HNA, a new main investor at NH Hotel Group

During the “Financially speaking: IREFAC insiders” session at the 40th annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, Jacques Brand, partner with the strategic advisory group at PJT Partners, said Radisson is the most obvious target for M&A on the market.

“There’s an opportunity for one of the branded companies to buy (Radisson) and/or Rezidor,” he said. “There are lots of synergies to realize in that transaction.”

Indeed, HNA has been gauging interest from rival hotel chains and other potential buyers of Radisson Hotel Group, said some people, who asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public. There is no certainty the talks will lead to a sale, they said.

"While it has been widely reported that HNA has recently been exploring the sale of some of its assets, we are in a very strong place with our business and remain committed to our go-forward strategy," said John Kidd, chief executive of Radisson’s operations in the Americas and Asia Pacific. "Any additional questions about a potential sale would need to be answered by HNA.”

Eric De Neef, EVP and Global Chief Commercial Officer at Radisson Hotel Group, said HNA has given no indication it will part with Radisson Hotel Group.

"We have the key money for our 2022 plans," he said. “We do not necessarily need HNA, but we do need owners. Will HNA stay? This is the question that might be asked in the market," he declared. "From all the interaction I have had with them, I do not see any suggestion that they want to sell us."

He added Chinese conglomerates such as HNA operate in silos.

"The death of (Wang) Jian will shake up (HNA), but there has been no postponement by the owners of our long-term plans," he said. “It does not make sense for HNA to sell 1.2 million shares in the Radisson Hospitality AB side of things when it already owns the entirety of the other side that owns the distribution and reservation services.

We hope we won't go through another company reorganization as from a management perspective it is exhausting."

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