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Frankfurt airport sale back on the boil amid Chinese interest

China’s HNA Group is set to team up with local firm ADC six months after a planned sale to another Chinese company fell through.

A consortium comprising Chinese conglomerate HNA Group and German real estate investor ADC have been selected as preferred bidder for Frankfurt-Hahn Airport.

The pair were chosen ahead of two other bids, the airport’s federal state owners Rhineland Palatinate said.

The state will now enter final negotiations with HNA and ADC, the latter of which is owned by Siegfried Englert, a former Secretary of State in the Ministry of Economics in the Rhineland Palatinate state.

HNA Group, which operates 16 airports across China, last year bought a 13 percent stake in Virgin Australia. It was also one of the bidders for London City Airport, eventually sold to a Canadian consortium for £2 billion ($2.8 billion; €2.5 billion).

The imminent deal follows a botched acquisition of the airport by HNA’s compatriots Shanghai Yiqian Trading Company six months ago. The firm had agreed a “low double-digit million euro” deal with the state which was cancelled a month later by Rhineland-Palatinate after doubts about “the reliability of the purchaser”.

Frankfurt-Hahn Airport was until 1993 only a military air base. It is now used by a number of low-cost airlines that find it easier to access than Frankfurt Airport, the country’s busiest. Passenger traffic fell by 2.1 percent in 2016 to 2.6 million people, placing the site as Germany’s 12th busiest airport.