HNA Extends Gategroup Takeover Offer, Scraps Minimum Buy-In

  • Gategroup shareholders have until July 21 to tender stock
  • Chinese conglomerate announced 1.4 billion-franc deal in April

HNA Group Co. extended its 1.4 billion-franc ($1.4 billion) offer for Switzerland’s Gategroup Holding AG and said it would scrap a previously set minimum acceptance level for the world’s second-biggest airline caterer.

Gategroup shareholders can tender their stock until July 21 after counting at the end of the initial acceptance period showed HNA garnered 63.6 percent of the Swiss company, the Chinese conglomerate said in statement Thursday. In April, HNA said the deal for the European company required a 67 percent buy-in.

“HNA is pleased about this interim result and remains confident that more shareholders of Gategroup will recognize the benefits of accepting the offer and therefore tender their shares into the offer during the additional acceptance period,” the company said in the statement Thursday.

Under the agreement, the airlines-to-supermarkets group controlled by Chinese billionaire Chen Feng had the option to walk away from the deal or drop the condition for minimum acceptance and extend the offer period through July 21. Hainan-based HNA said Thursday it expects the settlement to occur toward the end of the third quarter or the beginning of the fourth quarter of this year.

Buying Assets

HNA’s purchase of Gategroup amid a boom in Asian air travel will add to the clutch of aviation assets that the acquisitive Chinese group has bought around the world. Inflight caterers are struggling with a tougher operating environment as consolidation in Europe and the U.S. boosts carriers’ bargaining power, and a switch to low-cost flights means fewer passengers take meals.

The Chinese group had offered Gategroup 53 francs a share plus a previously declared 30 centimes a share dividend. Shares of the Swiss company climbed 2.3 percent to 52.15 francs as of 12:49 p.m. in Zurich, giving it a market valuation of 1.4 billion francs.

Should HNA proceed with its acquisition, RBR Capital Advisors would sell its stake in Gategroup, Rudolf Bohli, the chief executive officer of RBR, told AWP, a Swiss newswire. RBR, which owns 10.88 percent of Gategroup, doesn’t want to be a minority shareholder, Bohli said, adding he considers the deal “done and dusted.”

Gategroup had a loss of 63.4 million francs on sales of 3 billion francs last year, when the company said it would cut 300 jobs in locations such as Zurich and London.

The caterer’s 24.5 percent negative return on equity compared with a plus 10.1 percent return at Hainan Airlines Co., HNA’s flagship carrier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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