HNA Group, a Chinese conglomerate that spans several industries including aviation and retail, has been on an acquisition spree.
Its latest deal for the hotel operation of Carlson Cos. may not be the only one this week for HNA. Representatives for the group are also in Israel looking at opportunities to buy hotels or make investments in that country’s high-tech firms, according to news accounts.
In a letter to employees, members of the founding Carlson family said HNA has the money to invest in the Minnetonka company’s hotel business, which includes the Radisson brands and others, as the global hotel industry consolidates.
The family also said that, among the bidders, HNA presented the fewest “negative consequences for our people in job loss, and it keeps the hotels group headquartered in Minneapolis.”
They added, “Of the bidders we entertained, they were also most consistent with our own global outlook and desire to give our businesses the resources they need to succeed. We are very excited about the opportunity they will create for our hotels and hotel colleagues.”
In February, HNA reached a deal to buy California-based electronics distributor Ingram Micro for $6 billion. Earlier this month, it offered $1.5 billion for Swiss-based Gategroup Holdings, the world’s second-biggest airline catering company. It purchased a $420 million stake in Brazil’s third-largest airline and has a small stake in China Uber.
It also recently acquired a 15 percent stake in Spokane, Wash.-based Red Lion Hotels.
“Will any company that’s not had a takeover bid from China’s HNA Group over the past year please stand up?” David Fickling, a columnist for Bloomberg News, wrote earlier this month. He counted up nearly $20 billion worth of acquisitions by HNA since last spring.
HNA Group is best known as the owner of Hainan Airlines, the largest private airline in China and fourth-largest in the country that now flies to U.S. cities such as Boston, Chicago and Seattle.
It also owns several other small Chinese airlines and an executive jet service. Its hospitality group owns and manages more than 450 hotels in China and around the world.
Founded in 1993, HNA Group started off as a local airfreight company on the tropical island of Hainan, which has blossomed into a resort area that is often referred to “China’s Hawaii.”
In 1995, the company’s chairman, Chen Feng, flew to New York and successfully persuaded billionaire George Soros to invest $25 million in airline.
Soros later doubled that investment.
Today, HNA Group is run out of a 31-story headquarters building built in the shape of Buddha in the province’s capital of Haikou.
It has several divisions that include tourism, shipping, retail, real estate and financial services.
The group of companies has nearly 180,000 employees worldwide. It landed on Fortune Magazine’s list of top 500 global companies last year for the first time with more than $25 billion in revenue. But the ambitious Chen has hopes to grow even bigger.
“By 2020, we can become one of the top 100 companies, and by 2030, we want to be one of the top 50,” Chen told Bloomberg Markets in 2014. “Assets are still cheap in the U.S. and Europe, and we will continue to acquire them. We need a batch of world-class companies to emerge from China to help the country’s growth, and HNA will be one of those. We want to be everywhere.”