China’s HNA Group Co. said it’s been questioned by a U.S. government panel over its ownership of a building in Manhattan near Trump Tower.
The scrutiny from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which assesses deals posing potential national-security risks, involved some “unique facts and circumstances” regarding the location of the building, a representative for the Chinese conglomerate said in a statement. Those issues didn’t exist when HNA bought the 850 Third Avenue property in New York, it said.
The 21-story building houses one of only two police precincts that are within a mile of Trump Tower, the president’s base when he’s in New York. HNA said it’s taking steps to address concerns voiced by the committee.
The scrutiny comes amid rising tensions between the U.S. and China, which is said to have decided to help HNA pull itself out of recent liquidity challenges. The Chinese conglomerate, which has sold more than $17 billion in assets to lower its massive debts, has dangled the Manhattan building as one of several properties it is considering unloading.
Amid an escalating trade war with the world’s second-largest economy, President Donald Trump’s administration has stepped up its meddling in inbound investments involving China, resulting in the scuttling of some high-profile deals such as Broadcom Ltd.’s $117 billion attempt to buy Qualcomm Inc. CFIUS’s powers may also be expanded under a bill that Congress is expected to pass in August.
The Chinese conglomerate has also been caught in the crossfire. In late April, it abandoned plans to buy SkyBridge Capital from former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. The group has also faced heightened attention across its holdings worldwide, partly because of questions about its ownership. HNA agreed to buy the 850 Third Avenue building before Trump was elected.
Separately, the New York Post earlier reported that Trump’s administration is poised to seize a majority stake in the building. Responding to the article, HNA said “there is no seizure or forced sale of 850 Third Avenue underway or pending, and it is grossly inaccurate and misleading to suggest otherwise.”
— With assistance by Hannah Dormido
(Updates with backgrounda about U.S.-China tensions in fourth, fifth paragraphs.)