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Sieren's China: Deutsche Bank's Chinese stakeholder

The 3 percent stake in Deutsche Bank from China's HNA Group is not a threat. Instead it has come as a relief to investors, says DW’s Frank Sieren.

It seems as if the view in Germany has changed dramatically over the past year. Regarding the news last week that the Chinese HNA Group would be buying a 3 percent stake in Deutsche Bank, at a cost of 750 million euros ($790 million), there was no outcry but indeed a prudent reaction. There was no fear or defensive tirades, as were rife last year every time a Chinese company tried to invest in Germany; no, there is instead relief. And this surely cannot be because the HNA Group's chairman, Chen Feng, studied at the Lufthansa College of Air Transportation Management in Germany during the 1980s. In fact, it's the investors who are relieved.

The HNA Group's move gives Deutsche Bank more legroom but the stake does not give the Chinese conglomerate too much influence, which is surely why German politicians have not been very vocal about the matter, despite this being an election year.

Nevertheless, HNA is now the fourth-biggest single investor in Deutsche Bank after former Qatari prime minister Hamad Bin Jabor and his cousin, who own just over 6 percent, and the US investment group BlackRock, which also owns just over 6 percent.

Chinese group could invest more

The HNA Group has said that it might well invest more and increase its stake, but not to more than 10 percent. This would mean that international investors would have more than 20 percent together. Chen Feng is not interested in more but simply wants his group to be as diverse as possible. It already owns Hainan Airlines, China's largest carrier. Moreover, it has a stake in the US hotel chain Hilton and the handling and cargo services group Swissport International. It also has real estate in its portfolio.

Frank Sieren *PROVISORISCH* (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Tirl)

DW's Frank Sieren

The group said that Deutsche Bank was a "very attractive investment" for it. It would have been even more attractive, of course, if HNA had come on board in late spring last year, since shares have almost doubled since then. However, it did come on board just in the nick of time considering how difficult it has become for Chinese companies to invest abroad.

Investment made tougher

The Chinese government introduced new regulations at the end of 2016 to try to prevent capital flight from China. Consequently, China's outbound direct investment fell by about 36 percent to 53 billion yuan (7.3 billion euros) in January compared to the same month the previous year. This figure is perhaps not an entirely reliable indicator considering Chinese New Year came relatively early this year.

HNA has more to offer Germany and apparently wants to invest 50 million euros into Hahn Airport in Hunsrück. However, the groups want the whole airport for just a euro. Good luck!

DW's Frank Sieren has lived in Beijing for over 20 years.

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