Receivers Appointed to HNA’s Aitken Hill Conference Centre


Receivers and managers have been appointed for the owner of the Aitken Hill Conference Centre, a 69ha property near Melbourne Airport.

PwC has been appointed to the roles for Zhong Ao Zhi Hong Investment Holding.

Parent company, Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, had been trying to offload the conference venue in the north-western Melbourne suburb of Craigieburn after paying around $100 million for it in November 2016.

HNA made waves in 2016 and 2017 when it spent more than $60 billion on acquisitions globally, spanning aviation, real estate, financial services, tourism and logistics.

The group’s spree including stakes in Deutsche Bank AG, Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc and Virgin Australia.

In late-2019, the group announced a reorganisation, dividing its businesses into airlines, aviation leasing and airports, with the rest being lumped under its “non-aviation asset management” unit.

But its focus on aviation and tourism backfired in the wake of the Corona-19 outbreak ,with the government of Hainan province, where HNA is based, taking control of the group’s management in early 2020.

It is currently facing around $250 billion in creditor claims.

PwC Australia’s Martin Ford and Daniel Walley will now act as receivers for the Aitken Hill site, which they said was in a sought-after growth corridor about 30km north of Melbourne’s CBD.

The site features a 124-room hotel and extensive parkland, approximately 45ha of which has the potential for residential development.

It was constructed in the late 1980s and features 6000sq m of prime conference and events spaces, as well as sporting, leisure and hospitality facilities, and parking for 150 vehicles.

HNA purchased the estate with the immediate potential to add a seven-hectare retirement village and a 630-lot residential estate on undeveloped portions of the site.

PwC director Andrew Seeckts said the priority was to assess the business and options for its future.

“Our assessment will include working closely and constructively with Aitken Hill management so that we can make informed decisions about the site’s future,” Seeckts said.

“The hospitality and tourism sector has obviously been heavily impacted by Covid-19, and the site itself has not been operational for some time.”

PwC said a sale process for the property and business would begin soon, after the completion of the receivers’ assessment.

Operations at the site are not expected to recommence before it is sold.

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