HNA Group, one of China's largest conglomerates, has confirmed its interest in investing in Thailand's grand infrastructure project by setting up a major fund with a local partner, as the group enhances its footprint in ASEAN and along the Belt and Road.
HNA Innovation Finance Group (HNAIF), HNA's only Hong Kong-based unit, has signed a deal to form a $5 billion fund with CT Bright, the investment unit of Thailand's largest conglomerate CP Pokphand, to invest in Thailand's Eastern Economic Corridor, or EEC, according to media reports Wednesday.
HNAIF and CT Bright will "contribute equally" to the starting 20 percent while "raising the remainder" of the capital from Chinese and Thai investors in the next three to five years, a source familiar with the project has told the press.
The move will be a boost for the economy of Thailand and all the ASEAN regions, which face daunting challenges to improve infrastructure.
HNAIF has been watching investment opportunities in Thailand and the entire ASEAN region, said Qi Guanghui, the company spokesman.
"Working with our local partners to seek potential opportunities, we wish to apply our expertise in service and investments," he said, adding that HNAIF is eligible to set up funds overseas to support the Belt and Road construction.
"Such measures will help us raise money from the market," Qi added.
This is the first of such funds HNAIF will form in the Belt and Road region since it was founded in March.
With the Eastern Economic Corridor, Thailand hopes to develop its eastern provinces into a leading ASEAN economic zone.
The EEC straddles three eastern provinces of Thailand off the coast of the Gulf of Thailand – Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao – and spans 13,285 square kilometers. The government hopes to complete the EEC by 2021, turning these provinces into a hub for technological manufacturing and services with strong connectivity to ASEAN neighbors by land, sea and air.
The newest member of HNA Group's seven major units, HNAIF has six subsidiaries and total assets of more than 60 billion yuan ($9.1 billion). Its portfolio covers mainly commodity trading, financial investment and consumer finance.
The EEC fund follows HNA's $1 billion acquisition of CWT Group, an integrated supply chain service provider listed in Singapore. The CWT deal, which may be concluded soon, is done by Hong Kong-listed HNA Holding Group, a subsidiary of HNAIF.
Guo Ke, CEO of HNAIF, has said in a recent interview that CWT will be the vehicle to bring HNAIF into bulk commodity trading in Asia.