,BEIJING - A court in Hainan, China, has given the go-ahead to the merger of 321 firms related to the aviation conglomerate HNA Group, paving way for the company to potentially emerge from bankruptcy. Creditors of HNA Group applied to Hainan High People's Court at the end of January for the once highly acquisitive company to be placed in bankruptcy and restructured, as it is unable to pay its debts. As all of the firms are effectively controlled by HNA Group, it is only by arranging debt resources in a unified way can the company make fair compensations to all creditors, the court said in a ruling on Monday. "Through de-facto merger and restructuring, lots of time, human resources and costs can be saved, corporate assets and liabilities can be accurately reviewed and the restructuring draft plan will be more feasible and the efficiency and success rate will be boosted," said the court. "The 321 companies including HNA group have massive debts on book, which has the hidden danger to trigger regional and systemic financial risks and cause great pressure on local economy and social development." HNA, whose flagship business is Hainan Airlines, used a $50 billion global acquisition spree, mainly fuelled by debt, to build an empire with stakes in businesses from Deutsche Bank to Hilton Worldwide. But its spending drew scrutiny from the Chinese government and overseas regulators. As concerns grew over its mounting debts, it sold assets such as airport services company Swissport and electronics distributors Ingram Micro to focus on its airline and tourism business. Liquidity woes deepened when the COVID-19 pandemic paralysed travel demand last year, forcing the company to ask for local government to step in and lead a working group to resolve its liquidity risks. Creditors can now apply to make debt claims and the first creditors' meeting will take place on June 4, the court said. It added that 36 out of 423 parties of interest objected to the merger plan. REUTERS
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