HNA Credit Assessment Cut by S&P as Borrowing Costs Increase

  • Chinese conglomerate’s higher funding costs cited in report
  • UDC Finance could be downgraded if HNA acquisition successful

Pedestrians walk past the HNA Group Co. building in Beijing, China.

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

HNA Group Co. had its credit assessment cut by S&P Global Ratings, which cited concerns about the Chinese conglomerate’s looming debt payments and rising borrowing costs.

S&P said on Wednesday it lowered HNA’s credit profile by one notch to b, or five levels below investment grade, from b+. The change was disclosed in a report by S&P on New Zealand’s UDC Finance Ltd., which HNA is seeking to buy.

Group credit profile assessments are based on publicly available information and don’t incorporate the same access to management meetings and data S&P would have in an official rating of an issuer. Still, the downgrade represents the latest setback for a company that’s struggling with surging debts and interest expenses, which have climbed to levels higher than at any other non-financial company outside of the U.S and Brazil.

“HNA Group has significant debt maturities over the next several years and its funding costs are meaningfully higher than that of a year ago," Andrew Mayes and Sharad Jain, analysts at S&P, wrote in their report. "We will closely monitor HNA Group’s access to capital markets and funding costs to determine whether additional actions are necessary.”

HNA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company, saddled with $28 billion in short-term debt, saw its interest expenses more than double to 15.6 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) during the first half of the year. That’s more than what the company is able to cover through its earnings.

HNA Chief Executive Officer Adam Tan said Tuesday that the group is considering selling assets, signaling that the company is bowing to government pressure by reversing a global shopping spree that cost tens of billions of dollars and strained its finances.

As to Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.’s UDC Finance, S&P said it may cut the company’s long-term debt rating by four notches to a junk level of BB- from BBB if its sale to HNA is completed. The deal, announced in January, has yet to be completed pending approval from New Zealand’s overseas investment approvals board.

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