HNA Group, one of China’s most active dealmakers, is making another bet on the U.S. hospitality industry, paying $6.5 billion to acquire 25% of Hilton Worldwide Holdings from Blackstone Group.
Hilton, one of the nation’s biggest hotel companies, owns such brands as Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Curio, and Double Tree. At a price of $26.25 a share, a 14.6% premium to Hilton’s Friday’s closing price, its agreement with HNA values the company at about $26 billion.
The deal continues an acquisition spree in which HNA has announced about $20 billion of investments so far this year, according to Reuters. In April, the Chinese conglomerate bought Carlson Hotels, owner of Radisson hotels, for an undisclosed sum.
Chinese investors have been pushing foreign deals to sidestep slowing growth at home. The HNA deal would take China’s overseas M&A to a record $191 billion so far this year, more than 70% of 2015’s tally.
“The [U.S.] hotel real estate market is very mature. There are not a lot of surprises,” Jan Freitag, senior vice president at hotel research firm STR, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a good place to park your money.”
In the 12 months ended Sept. 30, U.S. hotels rented more rooms than in any previous 12-month period, according to STR.
HNA Group also owns more than a dozen airlines including flagship carrier Hainan Airlines, airports, financial services and real estate. It employs nearly 200,000 people and posts annual revenue of about $30 billion.
Hilton CEO Christopher J. Nassetta described HNA as a long-term investor in Hilton. “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,” he said.
Blackstone took Hilton private in 2007 for $26.7 billion, including debt. Under the deal with HNA, it will retain an approximately 21% interest in Hilton and continue to have two seats on its board.