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New Zealand regulator rejects HNA Group's acquisition of UDC Finance

New Zealand's Overseas Investment Office rejected the application of HNA Group Co. Ltd. to acquire ANZ Bank New Zealand Ltd. unit UDC Finance Ltd., citing uncertainty over HNA Group's ownership structure.

In a Dec. 21 statement, the regulator said the information provided about the ownership and control interests in HNA Group was not sufficient for it to approve the planned acquisition.

HNA Group can apply to the High Court for a judicial review of the decision, the regulator added.

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. agreed to sell UDC Finance to the Chinese conglomerate for NZ$660 million in January. The acquisition initially included the Esanda brand, along with trademarks in Australia and New Zealand.

In a same-day response to the Overseas Investment Office's decision, ANZ Bank New Zealand CEO David Hisco said it was unclear if HNA Group would attempt to overturn the regulator's decision, but added that the agreement between both parties remains in place. The sale can only proceed if HNA Group successfully overturns the decision, he said.

If the transaction does not push through, the company will assess its strategic options regarding the future of UDC Finance, Hisco added.

As of Dec. 20, US$1 was equivalent to NZ$1.43.