Chairman of China's HNA dies after falling from cliff in France

Chairman of China's HNA dies after falling from cliff in France

Chinese tycoon Wang Jian, whose sprawling conglomerate HNA Group owns a host of foreign assets, has died after a falling off a wall while sightseeing in southern France, police and his company said Wednesday.

Jian, who was 57 years old, died in an accident, the company said.

One of HNA's dollar bonds due in 2018 fell 1.5 cents on the dollar, the biggest drop since December 12, as of 4:59 p.m.in Hong Kong, according to Bloomberg prices.

Co-Chairman Wang Jian, who helped found the group more than two decades ago, fell from a height of about 15 metres (49 feet) on Tuesday while having his photograph taken in the village of Bonnieux, a police officer said, adding that the death wasn't viewed as suspicious.

More recently, HNA has been selling some assets as Chinese regulators tighten lending controls and press companies to rein in debt.

HNA said Wang, whose personal fortune is estimated at 1.7 billion dollars by Forbes magazine, had been visiting Bonnieux during a business trip to France.


"Together, we mourn the loss of an exceptionally gifted leader and role model", the company said in a statement.

Wang's sudden death comes at a time when the group, one of China's most indebted companies, was showing signs of putting its biggest problems behind it.

An aviation-to-financial services conglomerate that counts Hainan Airlines Co as its core asset, HNA's recent sales include holdings in companies such as Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc, Park Hotels & Resorts and Spain's NH Hotels.

But it racked up huge debts in the process and has since reversed course, selling assets to ease financial pressures as authorities in China cracked down on aggressive overseas deal-making by Chinese companies. Also in attendance were executives at Glencore Plc, which hours later announced the US$775 million sale of a majority stake in its oil storage and logistics business to HNA. Wang's death appeared to be accidental lieutenant-colonel Hubert Meriaux at the Vaucluse gendarmerie told Reuters.

Wang had a degree in airline management from the Civil Aviation University of China and an MBA from the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands.

Wang held a 15 percent stake in HNA. In November, HNA sold China's most expensive short-term dollar bond, and a month later China Citic Bank Corp. said a unit of the group had repayment difficulties.

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