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HNA buys landmark building in London

By Wang Wen in Beijing and Zhang Chunyan in London | China Daily | Updated: 2015-09-01 07:40

HNA Group, the owner of Hainan Airlines and a number of other aviation companies, said on Monday that it has acquired 30 South Colonnade, a landmark office building in Canary Wharf, one of London's major financial districts for an undisclosed amount.

The 10-story building, spread over 305,600 square feet (28,390 square meters), is the European headquarters of global newswire Thomson Reuters. It is also adjacent to other financial powerhouses like Citibank, HSBC, Northern Trust and Morgan Stanley.

Though HNA did not disclose the acquisition amount, industry sources said that the building's former owner had asked for 215 million pounds ($331 million), when it was put up for sale in May.

 HNA buys landmark building in London

The Thomson Reuters building in Canary Wharf in London. HNA Group has acquired this 10-story landmark building for its expansion in the United Kingdom and Europe. Russell Boyce / Reuters

"The acquisition of 30 South Colonnade by HNA is an important step in building its European portfolio and will also promote its international image," the group said in a statement.

HNA moved into the Fortune Global 500 this year, and is ranked 464 with total assets of $128 billion. However, it is betting big on growth driven by overseas expansion.

In the next five years, HNA expects to move into the Fortune top 100 and the top 10 in a decade, said HNA Group Chairman Chen Feng. The Haikou, Hainan province-based company has businesses spanning aviation, holdings, tourism, capital and logistics. The group achieved annual revenues of approximately $21 billion in 2014.

On July 31, the group bought the world's largest ground and cargo handling company - Swissport International Ltd - for about $2.823 billion and the group owns 27 subsidiary holding companies in 11 countries.

"The acquisition reflects the Chinese company's going global plans and lays a strong foundation for its expansion in the UK and Europe," said Jin Xu, minister counselor of the economic and commercial office at the embassy of China in the United Kingdom.

"China-UK economic and business relations have become more mature and there are now several firms, including private enterprises, present here. The UK is an open market, which is keen to attract overseas investment and the same view is shared by the government and companies," Jin said.

Although the acquisition is HNA's first move in London, the city has been attractive to Chinese investors for a while, as the largest economic center in Europe.

Around $4 billion investment from China went to London in 2014, which made the city the largest investment destination for Chinese capital, according to JLL, the Chicago-based global real estate services firm.

Chinese investors are trying to ensure long-term income through investments in the overseas real estates market, at a time when the Chinese economy is slowing, said analysts. Most of these investments are concentrated in major cities like London.

"Chinese investors still have strong passion for overseas real estate and the total investment may reach $20 billion by the end of this year," said David Green Morgan, head of global research for the international capital group at JLL.

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