Hilton CEO sees “good strategic potential” in tie-up with HNA
Hilton's CEO Christopher Nassetta emphasized the long-term “good strategic potential” of Hilton’s relationship with its stakeholder HNA Group.
During its conference call for earnings in the second quarter of 2017, Hilton's CEO Christopher Nassetta addressed its relationship to its investor HNA Group.
When asked by analysts if he was concerned about HNA’s financial investment in Hilton, Nassetta said, “I don’t have anything to add to what you’re reading about with HNA.” He said Hilton is “in dialogue” with the company and is “in the process of onboarding a couple of board members as planned.”
Pressed for further comment, Nassetta emphasized the long-term “good strategic potential” of Hilton’s relationship with HNA Group.
HNA closed its 25% acquisition of Hilton shares from Blackstone for USD 6.5 billion in March. Recent crackdowns on corporate debt by the Chinese government are fueling concerns that HNA may be forced to pay down its debts, and possibly threaten its many foreign investments — Hilton included.
Additionally, Nassetta fielded a question about Hilton’s ties to another Chinese conglomerate, Anbang, which is also facing scrutiny from the Chinese government over its debts.
“As far as we know, their intentions are to continue a rapid pace to enter into the major redevelopment of the Waldorf-Astoria,” Nassetta said, noting Hilton has been in engaging in “lots of discussions” with the company.
Nassetta also shared an interesting perspective on Airbnb and the rise of home sharing and vacation rentals. He believes that the more competition there is from the likes of platforms such as HomeAway and Airbnb, that it could likely translate to lower distribution costs for online travel agencies (OTAs) like Booking.com or Expedia.
“Competition is a good thing,” Nassetta said. He reiterated his believe that Airbnb and its peers “are not directly competitive” with hotels and that they cater to “different travel or trip occasions.”
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