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Swiss blast HNA for breaking disclosure rules, plan criminal complaint

Swiss blast HNA for breaking disclosure rules, plan criminal complaint
FILE PHOTO: The HNA Group logo is seen on the gate of HNA Plaza building in Beijing, China July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elias Glenn -
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Elias Glenn(Reuters)
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By John Miller

ZURICH (Reuters) – Chinese conglomerate HNA Group repeatedly provided false reports about the real owners of its former stake in duty free group Dufry <DUFN.S>, Swiss markets watchdog FINMA said, calling it a “serious breach of disclosure obligations”.

FINMA will be registering a complaint with the Criminal Law Division of the Federal Department of Finance,” the markets supervisor said on Wednesday. It concluded that HNA submitted six incorrect reports to the SIX Swiss Exchange between April 2017 and February 2019.

FINMA’s report marks the latest instance in which Swiss officials have found fault in HNA Group’s reporting after concluding in 2017 that the Chinese travel conglomerate gave “untrue” details during its takeover of airline caterer Gategroup.

HNA sold Gategroup this year to RRJ Capital, but owns Swiss cargo handling unit Swissport.

With Dufry, FINMA found HNA Group Chairman Feng Chen and former co-Chairman Jian Wang, who died in 2018 after suffering a fall while travelling in France, should have been named as the shareholders behind the Dufry stake, not the Hainan Province Cihang Foundation that they founded.

FINMA Enforcement Division Chief Patric Eymann said Swiss law requires transparent disclosure to ensure fairness for all investors.

“The market needs transparency when it comes to who is actually behind qualified stakes taken in listed companies,” Eymann said. “The actual control situation must be disclosed in Switzerland so that the stakeholders in question cannot be concealed through opaque structures and technicalities, as was the case here.”

In June, the Hainan Province Cihang Foundation reported to the SIX Swiss Exchange that its stake had gone below the 3% threshold, down from more than 20% in February 2018.

(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)

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