HNA it is for Carlson Hotels


David Berg, CEO of Carlson Hospitality Group

ENDING months of speculation, Beijing-based HNA Tourism Group has entered into an agreement with Carlson Hospitality Group to buy Carlson Hotels, with an eye to accelerate growth “in areas such as digital, owned assets in major gateway cities, the building of Radisson RED and other new brands”, said a statement.

HNA is acquiring all of Carlson Hotels, including its 51.3 per cent share in Rezidor Hotel Group, Carlson Hotels’ master licensee based in Brussels with hotels in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, for an undisclosed sum.

David Berg, CEO of Carlson Hospitality Group, will remain CEO of the new organisation.

The transaction is expected to close in the second half of the year, subject to regulatory approvals.

Carlson Hotels owns the brands Quorvus Collection, Radisson Blu, Radisson, Radisson RED, Park Plaza, Park Inn by Radisson, Country Inns & Suites By Carlson, and the Club Carlson global hotel rewards programme.

Asia-Pacific, in particular markets such as China and India, is one of, if not the fastest-growing region for these brands, with the group seeing a strong take-up of its new brand, the millennial lifestyle Radisson RED. Out of 10 signed Radisson RED hotels globally, five are in Asia-Pacific and two of these are in China.

As of January, it was planning to open 60 Radisson RED hotels globally by 2020. This is likely to accelerate under its new ownership with the statement singling out “the building of Radisson RED and other new brands”.

In Asia-Pacific, the chain has a pipeline of 91 hotels as of January comprising all brands.

Contacted for comment, Thorsten Kirschke, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group president-Asia Pacific, said: “Once this transaction is fully concluded, we’ll be stronger than ever. We are excited about this agreement and confident that all Asia-Pacific stakeholders will recognise that as a combined company, we will be able to accelerate growth and advance our commitment through investments in areas such as digital, owned assets in major gateway cities and our portfolio of brands including Radisson Blu and Radisson RED.”

Said Berg in the same statement that the agreement provides tremendous opportunities for growth. “We look forward to working within HNA Tourism Group, a greatly respected global enterprise, in what will be an exciting new chapter in the history of Carlson Hotels. As part of HNA Tourism Group, Carlson Hotels will have an opportunity to advance our commitment to providing guests with hospitality worldwide.”

Acquisitive HNA already owns or has a stake in multiple travel brands, including Spanish chain NH Hotel Group, Washington-based Red Lion Hotels, Swissport International and Azul airline.

Said Bai Haibo, HNA Tourism Group’s board member and HNA Hospitality Group’s chairman and CEO: “…we will build upon (Carlson Hotels’ global success and strong, sustainable growth potential)…to establish our presence in the US market and expand our footprint in hospitality internationally. We look forward to working together with their management team, employees, franchisee partners, suppliers and customers to accelerate growth by investing substantially in the business.”

The sale leaked out in January when Carlson Hospitality Group appointed Morgan Stanley to seek a partnership, merger or sale of the company. Accor, InterContinental Hotels Group and HNA were among companies speculated to be interested.

HNA/Carlson is the third major chains consolidation following Marriott/Starwood and Accor/FRHI Holdings.

Meanwhile, AccorHotels has received antitrust clearance for its proposed acquisition of FRHI. The next step will be Accor’s shareholders meeting to approve capital and board representatives for Qatar Investment Authority and Kingdom Holding. The meeting is expected to take place in coming weeks, and the transaction is expected to close mid-year.

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