HNA Group, a vast Chinese conglomerate so opaque few people truly understand what it owns, but is full owner of Hainan Airlines and all of its subsidiaries, is said to be in dire financial trouble again.
HNA is estimated to owe nearly $100 billion to consortiums of banks, investors, and its own subsidiaries.
As part of its efforts to lower its debt, it borrowed money from its own subsidiary companies including Hainan Airlines and Swiss Port – which it had been unable to sell, to lend it millions of dollars it can no longer repay. Swiss Port is owed over $300m.
The company is so desperate for cash – often being described as ‘reckless’ – that it’s even tried to persuade employees to reinvest their salaries.
Suparna Airlines, owned by Hainan Airlines, and formerly Yangtze River Express Cargo, was being sued by Atlas Air for unpaid debts, a case apparently solved only after a year of Atlas badgering Hainan for payment of an almost $10m debt.
The Groups control of an enormous airline, is just about the only thing keeping it going. It’s failed spectacularly to sell anything like the assets it aimed for – nobody is willing to pay the asking price for a distressed sale, and the demands for cash on the airline are weakening its own ability to stay in business.
Analysts wonder quite how long it can go on.