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China’s HNA Group slims down after asset sales but debt concerns remain

HONG KONG – Though HNA Group Co. has managed to reduce one of China’s biggest debt piles by selling off dozens of assets, the embattled Chinese conglomerate will probably need to get much slimmer before regaining the trust of investors.

Total debt fell 9.5 percent to 541.6 billion yuan ($79 billion) at the end of June, down about $8.3 billion from a record set at the end of last year, according to figures derived from a half-year report dated Friday. It’s the first time the number has fallen, based on public data stretching back to 2005.

The lighter load may ease the pressure on HNA, which is seeking to recover from borrowing tens of billions of dollars to fund purchases ranging from big stakes in Deutsche Bank AG to skyscrapers in Manhattan. But debts remain high and the results were not enough to shake off concerns about the company.

“The improvement does not appear material enough and management perhaps needs to do more,” said Warut Promboon, managing partner at credit research firm Bondcritic Ltd. “Asset sales are a good step in the right direction.”

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