HNA Faces Lender Questions on $1 Billion CWT Takeover

  • Maybank, RHB scrutinizing HNA’s leverage ratios more closely
  • Financing banks need more time to assess latest information

Behind China's Boldest Dealmaker

HNA Group Co., the acquisitive Chinese conglomerate, is facing additional questions from banks working on financing its proposed $1 billion takeover of Singapore logistics operator CWT Ltd., people with knowledge of the matter said.

Firms including Malayan Banking Bhd. and RHB Bank Bhd., which are preparing a loan package to back the acquisition, have been seeking more information from HNA in recent weeks, the people said. The lenders started scrutinizing HNA’s leverage ratios more closely to assess how much debt they can provide, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. 

They have also been evaluating whether the Chinese company has ways to support CWT’s business and service the debt if there is a downturn in the logistics industry, one of the people said. The lenders will need more time to assess the latest information before finalizing the terms of any financing, the people said. Maybank and RHB are still working on the funding, though the situation remains fluid and there’s no certainty they will be able to reach an agreement, the people said.

Chinese regulators have been assessing the risks that HNA Group and other serial dealmakers pose to the nation’s financial system. Some of the biggest U.S. and Chinese banks have distanced themselves from HNA Group, people familiar with the matter have said, though the company denies that is the case.

QuickTake Q&A explores the mysteries of HNA

“Clearly, what’s worrying the market is HNA’s financing ability,” Justin Tang, a director of global special situations at Religare Capital Markets in Singapore, said by phone Thursday.  “It’s a race against time for HNA to meet all preconditions before the long-stop date, and there’s a chance that the deal won’t get done.”

Shares of CWT reversed earlier gains Thursday, falling as much as 0.5 percent before closing unchanged at S$2.11.

The conglomerate is doing the deal through Hong Kong-listed unit HNA Holding Group Co., which has a market value of about $409 million. It had $140 million of cash and equivalents at the end of 2016, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Representatives for CWT, HNA Group, Maybank and RHB declined to comment.

HNA Holding plans to finance the CWT purchase through internal resources, external financing and as much as S$1.4 billion ($1 billion) of interest-free funds from unspecified associates of its parent company, according to a filing last month. The Chinese company said Wednesday it expects to hold a shareholder vote on the deal between the end of August and early September. All the pre-conditions of the deal must be fulfilled or waived by Sept. 9 for it to proceed.

Ancient Trade Routes

Acquiring CWT would give HNA Group a foothold in Southeast Asia and help it build a transport network across the region, which is being encouraged as part of the Chinese government’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative to revive ancient trade routes. The deal would also bring a portfolio of warehouse properties and allow HNA to bulk up its commodity trading business.

HNA Group has announced more than $40 billion of deals since the beginning of 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. U.S. officials are examining its proposed purchase of SkyBridge Capital, the hedge-fund firm founded by White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, while the European Central Bank is considering a review of the company’s stake in Deutsche Bank AG, people with knowledge of the matter have said. 

— With assistance by Ruth David, Mariko Ishikawa, and Dong Lyu

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