China's HNA boss Wang Jian's death in France likely an accident

A HNA Group logo is seen on the building of HNA Plaza in Beijing

A HNA Group logo is seen on the building of HNA Plaza in Beijing

Wang's sudden death comes as HNA, one of China's most indebted companies, is undertaking an urgent restructuring.

Hong Kong-listed CWT, a Singaporean commodities and logistics group acquired by HNA in late 2017, fell as much as 7.4% during the day before closing down 5.6%.

The firm's US$230 billion in assets includes a diverse global empire of businesses operating in aviation, tourism, and finance, and includes Hilton hotels and other marquee companies in the US, Europe and Australia. The bond, issued in August 2016 to raise $1 billion, is held by investors including UBS and Fidelity International.

Police said HNA Chairman Wang Jian died after falling from a wall at the village church in Bonnieux, southern France.

In a letter internally distributed at HNA earlier this year, Wang blamed the company's hardships on "major conspiracy" against the ruling Communist Party and Chinese President, Xi Jinping, by foreign and domestic "reactionary forces", Reuters said.

According to various sources, he fell between 12m (39ft) and 15m (49ft). "He had been under great pressure recently".

Following its now-infamous acquisition spree, the group's financial struggles began to emerge in the middle of a year ago, when the Chinese government began scrutinizing high-profile acquirers such as HNA, Dalian Wanda Group Co. and Anbang Insurance Group Co.

However, the company's expansion was derailed by the Chinese government's decision to curb overseas investment by private conglomerates on order to cut financial risks. Numerous companies also came under scrutiny for their opaque ownership structures.

However, HNA started to sell large chunks of its worldwide interests in the wake of a crackdown by Chinese authorities on debt-fuelled financing. Last year, the company also took the unusual step of disclosing its shareholding structure.

HNA has remained in selling mode: last month, Hainan Airlines said it would offload its stake in Brazilian airline Azul SA, worth around $324 million.

Shareholders have promised that in the event of leaving the company or dying they would pass their stakes to the NY charity fund, according to a document seen by Reuters.

Wang owned about 15 per cent of the Chinese group, making him one of the group's biggest shareholders, Bloomberg reported.

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