CHINA'S fourth biggest aviation company HNA Group is reportedly bidding for a stake in GE SeaCo, a container leasing unit under General Electric Co, for US$3 billion (US$464.5 million) as it continues efforts to expand overseas.

HNA, parent of Hainan Airlines, is competing with private equity firm Kelso & Co for a stake in GE SeaCo, partly owned by GE Capital, General Electric's financing arm.

Foreign media reports said the deal could be valued between US$2.5 billion and US$3 billion including debt.

HNA and GE spokespeople said they didn't know about the bid.

The bid was the latest in a series of moves by HNA to acquire stakes in companies overseas this year.

HNA was also in talks to buy a stake in Hochtief AG's airport-operating unit and reportedly bought shares in Hungary's state-owned carrier Malev Hungarian Airlines via Hainan Airlines, which became the first Chinese airline to invest in the European aviation industry.

Hochtief owns stakes in airports in Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Tirana, Athens, Budapest and Sydney.

Malev operates 22 aircraft and serves 50 destinations in 36 countries and regions.

In May, HNA said it had bought a 20 percent stake in Spanish hotel chain NH Hoteles for 431.6 million euros (US$612.6 million) to become its second largest shareholder and planned to set up a joint venture with NH Hoteles to develop hotels in China.

An analyst said HNA's stake in Malev will pave the way for its expansion into the European market, but added it's difficult for a domestic company to mix different cultures and management styles in Europe.

The group also said on Tuesday that it had signed a strategic cooperation agreement with China State Construction Engineering Co Ltd. 

SOURCE: Shanghai Daily
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