technology

HNA Charity Names CEO, Pledges to Give Away $200 Million

Updated on
  • Philipp Roesler was formerly Germany’s vice chancellor
  • Foundation says it’s already contributed $30 million
Philipp Roesler Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

HNA Group Co.’s New York-based charity, the Chinese conglomerate’s largest shareholder, named former German Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler as its chief executive officer and said the foundation plans to give away as much as $200 million toward philanthropic causes over the next five years.

Roesler will be in charge of turning Hainan Cihang Charity Foundation Inc., which has contributed a total of $30 million to the likes of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, into a "world-class charitable organization," according to an emailed statement late Thursday. Bloomberg first reported on Roesler’s appointment in November.

New York-based Cihang has a stake of 29.5 percent in the Chinese conglomerate, which has about $180 billion in assets. Still, little is known about the foundation such as assessing its level of assets, a "difficult" task that a board member at HNA said last week has begun. Asked to comment whether HNA has any direct or indirect interest in the charity, a representative at HNA said the group has no ownership in the charity.

HNA has another charity in China called Hainan Province Cihang Foundation, and combined with the New York organization, the pair own 52 percent of HNA Group. But little is known about how those charities are run and controlled, putting the foundations at the center of the mystery surrounding HNA’s ownership.

HNA, the Curious Company Worrying China and U.S.: QuickTake Q&A

The other major hurdle: mounting borrowing costs. After HNA embarked on a debt-fueled acquisition spree amounting to tens of billions of dollars in recent years, the company has racked up more than $28 billion in short-term debt and interest expenses have surged to above levels it can cover through earnings. Concerns about the company’s finances have deepened in the past weeks, prompting the company to take various steps to bolster confidence such as announcing stock purchases by executives and support from creditors.

(Updates with HNA comment on the charity ownership in the third paragraph.)
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