A passenger prepares to board a flight of Hainan Airlines in Haikou, Hainan province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Airline group and Europe's leading hotelier among potential bidders

HNA Group, China's fourth-largest airline group, and Accor
SA, Europe's biggest hotel operator, are believed to be among potential bidders for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, which owns the Radisson and Park Plaza brands.

A sale could be worth about $2 billion, and a deal could be done as soon as the middle of the year, industry sources told Bloomberg.

No final decisions have been made about the sale, and Carlson is also considering other options for the assets, the sources said.

Spokeswomen from HNA and Accor both refused to comment.

Accor actually signed a strategic supplier-cooperation deal in 2014 with HNA Hospitality Group, the hotel subsidiary of HNA Group.

HNA and Paris-based Accor-which owns the Sofitel and Ibis brands-have been acquisitive in the hotel and travel industry in recent months.

HNA Hospitality has become one of China's biggest hotel companies with more than 90 hotels in 30 domestic and overseas cities, with 30,000 rooms.

In December, Accor agreed to buy Canada's FRHI Holdings Ltd, parent of the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel hotel chains, in a deal worth $2.9 billion. The purchase covers 155 hotels in the three brands including landmark properties Raffles Singapore, The Savoy in London and Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec.

Earlier in the year, it also acquired hotel-reservation service Fastbooking.

Last year HNA spent as much as 36.9 billion yuan ($5.65 billion) on mergers and acquisitions, and continued expanding its global business across the aviation, airport management, logistics and tourism sectors.

It is the biggest shareholder in Spanish hotelier NH Hotel Group SA, and agreed to buy 23.7 percent stake in Brazilian airline Azul Linhas Aereas Brasileiras SA for $450 million in November.

It also acquired Swissport International Ltd, the airport luggage handler, from PAI Partners SAS for 2.73 billion Swiss francs ($2.74 billion) last year, and was one of the bidders for London City Airport, losing out to a consortium led by Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board.

Li Lei, deputy director of Minzu Securities Co, said HNA's ambitious overseas expansion is a reasonable method of reducing its business risks.