China's financially-troubled HNA Group's minority stake in Australian carrier Virgin Australia, is drawing interest from potential bidders as the Chinese conglomerate offloads non-core assets to reduce debt, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
According to the report, the approximately 20% stake could attract bids from existing shareholders in the company as well as other airlines and investment funds should HNA decide to pursue a
sale, although the Chinese conglomerate isn't actively working on selling its holding, one of the people said.
Singapore Airlines and Nanshan Capital, which each control about a fifth of Virgin Australia's shares, are among the companies weighing a bid, the people said. The Australian airline has a market value of about A$1.9 billion (US$1.4 billion) after its shares dropped about 20% this year. Singapore Airlines is majority owned by government-controlled Temasek Holdings.
Which investor will win the Virgin Race?
More than 90% of Virgin Australia's shares are controlled by five investors. In addition to HNA, Singapore Airlines and Nanshan, they include Etihad Airways and Corvina Holdings.
Although the companies involved declined comment or didn't immediately respond to calls and email, HNA has been selling off assets this and last year after racking up one of China's biggest corporate debt loads in a global acquisition spree.
It sold its stakes in Hilton Worldwide, the NH Hotel Group and the Radisson hotel chain this year, as well as a stake in aircraft leasing firm Avolon Holdings Ltd.
Nol van Fenema
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