China’s Highly Aggressive HNA Group Is a Billion-Dollar Mystery

One-time regional airline now owns stakes in Hilton Hotels and Germany's Deutsche Bank.

May 11, 2017 5:00 am
Highly Aggressive Chinese Company Operating Under Shroud of Mystery
Chen Feng, chairman of HNA Group Co. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In the case of some big, aggressive Chinese companies, the most important question these days seems to be: Who’s steering the ship?

As The New York Times has previously noted in the past, the opacity of certain Chinese companies has raised red flags among U.S. politicians and policymakers. There is uncertainty over who exactly is behind them and what role the Chinese government is playing. Most importantly, if they’re buying up big stakes in foreign and American companies, who’s even responsible if something goes awry.

One such company is the privately held HNA Group, which the Times notes was founded in 1993 as a small regional airline, but has since grown exponentially, now owning large stakes in Hilton Hotels and Germany’s Deutsche Bank.

Of late, its chairman, Chen Feng, has been on an incredible spending streak—including a number of hotels, a construction company, and tech wholesaler—backed by an unheard of line of $60 billion credit.

But Chen’s ties to the Communist Party are obvious, and it’s unclear what role the government has played in the company’s proliferation. Also, as the Times notes, “Understanding how (the 18 HNA subsidiaries) work together, and who controls the HNA Group, is a challenge. Its shareholders are masked behind multiple layers of shell companies, subsidiaries and offshore affiliates.”

The same day the Times‘ story ran (May 9), this video from HNA Group was posted to YouTube.


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