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China’s HNA Group takes 25 per cent stake in Hilton for over US$6 billion

Christopher Nassetta Hilton

Hilton Worldwide, HNA Group and Blackstone have announced a deal that will see HNA acquire an approximate 25 percent equity interest in Hilton from affiliates of Blackstone, establishing a long-term strategic investment in Hilton and Hilton’s planned spin-offs of Park Hotels and Resorts and Hilton Grand Vacations.

The transaction is valued at approximately USD$6.5 billion, or USD$26.25 per share in cash, reducing Blackstone’s interest in Hilton to approximately 21 percent.

The purchase by HNA comes six months after the company moved to acquire Carlson Hotels globally and five months after taking a strategic stake in Virgin Australia Airlines.

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017 and following Hilton’s previously announced spin-offs of Park and HGV, which are expected to occur on or about the end of the year, HNA will own approximately 25 percent of all three companies.

As part of the transaction, HNA has entered into a stockholders agreement with Hilton, and into similar agreements with Park Hotels and Resorts and Hilton Grand Vacations, effective upon closing.

The agreement allows HNA to appoint two directors (one HNA member and one independent member) to Hilton’s Board of Directors, bringing the total to ten members.

Pursuant to the agreement, HNA has agreed to certain restrictions on its ability to sell any of its interest in Hilton for a two-year period, and to limitations on HNA’s ability to acquire more than 25 percent of Hilton’s outstanding shares, without Hilton’s consent.

Furthermore, under the agreement, HNA will vote its shares in excess of 15 percent proportionally with other stockholders, subject to certain exceptions. Blackstone will continue to have two seats on Hilton’s Board, including Jon Gray who will remain chairman.

“We are pleased to welcome HNA Group as a long-term investor and strategic partner,” said Christopher J. Nassetta, President and CEO of Hilton.

“HNA Group has a broad portfolio of successful travel and hospitality businesses and a proven track record of creating value in this industry.

“We believe this mutually beneficial relationship will open new opportunities for our brands and guests around the world, particularly in light of HNA’s strong position in the fast-growing Chinese travel and tourism market, the largest outbound travel and tourism market in the world.”

HNA Group is a global Fortune 500 company focused on Tourism, Logistics and Financial Services. Since its founding in 1993, HNA Group has evolved from a regional airline based on Hainan Island into a global company with over USD$90 billion of assets, USD$30 billion in annual revenues and an international workforce of nearly 200,000 employees, primarily across North America, Europe and Asia.

“Hilton is an iconic global hospitality company with an unmatched portfolio of high-quality brands and a reputation for operational excellence,” said Adam Tan, vice chairman and CEO of HNA Group.

“This investment is consistent with our strategy to enhance our global tourism business, and we look forward to working together on new initiatives that leverage our respective strengths, expertise and tourism platforms to provide travellers more choice, value and world-class services.”

HNA’s tourism business is a fast-growing, vertically-integrated global player with market-leading positions in aviation, hotels and travel services. HNA operates and invests in nearly 2,000 hotels with over 300,000 rooms across major markets, and has 1,250 aircraft carrying over 90 million passengers to 260 cities worldwide.

“Since our initial investment in Hilton nine years ago, the company and its leadership team have delivered phenomenal results,” said Jon Gray, global head of real estate, Blackstone, and chairman of the Hilton Board of Directors.

“We think the company’s future is bright, and this long-term investment from HNA Group only adds to its potential.”

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