China's HNA Group chairman and CEO taken away by police

Credit: REUTERS/Jason Lee

Adds background, quote from statement; changes dateline to SHANGHAI

SHANGHAI, Sept 24 (Reuters) - China's HNA Group, once one of the country's most acquisitive conglomerates, said on Friday that its chairman and its chief executive had been taken away by police due to suspected criminal offences.

The company, which was placed in bankruptcy administration in February after its creditors filed a petition, said in a statement on its official WeChat account it had been notified by police in its home province of Hainan, southern China, that Chairman Chen Feng and CEO Tan Xiangdong had been taken.

"The operations of HNA Group and its member companies are stable and orderly, and the bankruptcy and restructuring work is progressing smoothly according to the law," the company said.

In the 2010s HNA Group, whose flagship business is carrier Hainan Airlines 600221.SS, used a $50 billion global acquisition spree, mainly fuelled by debt, to build an empire with stakes in businesses from Deutsche Bank DBKGn.DE to Hilton Worldwide.

But its spending drew scrutiny from the Chinese government and overseas regulators. As concerns grew over its mounting debts, it sold assets such as airport services company Swissport and electronics distributors Ingram Micro to focus on its airline and tourism business.

In early 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic paralysed travel demand and hit cash flows, the Hainan government sent in a work group to HNA to help resolve its liquidity problems.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Twinnie Siu and Min Zhang; Writing by Tom Daly; Editing by Philippa Fletcher and Jan Harvey)

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