What Lies Behind China’s HNA Group’s $40 Billion M&A Buying Spree?

Hainan-based HNA Group’s founder and chairman Chen Feng gave an interview to China Entrepreneur magazine in 2008 in which he described two of the great dangers that businesspeople face in China. For the first he cited the old adage that the quickest way to turn a billionaire into a millionaire was to start an airline. Then he added that to truly reduce a billionaire to rags, all that was required was to have them stay in Hainan after 1995.

Richard Branson is usually attributed with the first observation. And in Chen’s case, of course, he can be said to have done the opposite – he started an airline and became a billionaire. But the second quip references the severe downturn that hit the island of Hainan after the property market meltdown of the early 1990s.

Chen appears to have avoided the downside of the latter curse too. HNA has becom...

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