HSH Nordbank Is Said to Attract Bids From HNA Group, Apollo

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  • More than five suitors place indicative bids for German lender
  • Offers mean bank may be able to avoid being wound down

China’s HNA Group and Apollo Global Management LLC are among at least five potential suitors that have placed preliminary bids for Germany’s HSH Nordbank AG, fueling hopes the state-owned bank can be sold instead of wound down, said people familiar with the matter.

State officials and regulators will review the potential buyers and their offers over the next few weeks, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. The bank’s owners -- the German states of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein -- are “very pleased” with the bids that have come in so far, according to a joint statement on Sunday.

Stefan Ermisch

Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

The bank’s chief executive officer, Stefan Ermisch, said last week that HSH had received more than 10 expressions of interest. Not all of those translated into indicative offers. Spokesmen for Apollo and HSH declined to comment.

The European Union in 2015 ordered Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein to sell HSH Nordbank by the end of February 2018. The lender received 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in cash and 10 billion euros in guarantees in 2009 from its government owners, when it buckled under as a result of its investments in U.S. subprime mortgages, just as the global financial crisis spread to the shipping industry, which made up a large part of the bank’s loan book.

Shipping Portfolio 

China’s HNA is working on the acquisition with asset manager C-Quadrat Investment AG, through which it holds a 4.76 percent stake in Deutsche Bank AG, the people said. The conglomerate is looking at HSH as a way to create synergies between its maritime financing operations and the German lender’s large shipping portfolio, one of the people said.

HSH is still one of the world’s largest ship financing banks, with a volume of 17 billion euros at the end of last year. A spokesman for C-Quadrat declined to comment.

But executives and bankers expect most rival lenders and investors to form larger groups to increase their chances of buying HSH.

The more than 21 billion euros in assets housed by its “bad bank” will mostly lure private equity and distressed debt investors. In contrast, HSH’s core business -- which recorded 639 million euros in profit last year from commercial real estate operations -- and its relationships with small- and medium-sized companies, is expected to attract banks from outside Europe, mainly Asia.