China's fourth-biggest airline group, HNA Group, has bought a 20% stake in leading Spanish hotel chain NH Hoteles for 431.6 million Euros, NH Hoteles said on Tuesday.
The two firms will also set up a joint venture for the development of a chain of four-star hotels in China, one of the world's fastest-growing tourism markets, NH Hoteles said in a statement.
The deal will make HNA Group, the parent of Hainan Airlines, the second-biggest shareholder in NH Hoteles and give it two seats on the Spanish firm's board of directors.
The alliance which we have agreed means our company will have the opportunity to install itself in a market with huge potential that is China and where there is an opportunity gap for the NH model, said the president of NH Hoteles, Mariano Perez Claver, in a statement.
China, which as recently as 2000 received just eight million visitors, will become the world's most visited country in 2020, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
The country replaced Spain last year as the world's third most visited country behind France and the United States. It received 55.98 million international arrivals in 2010, a 10% increase over the previous year.
NH Hoteles returned to profit for the first time since 2007 during the first quarter of 2011 with gains of 1.4 million Euros compared to a loss of 31.5 million Euros during the same time last year.
It is Europe's third-biggest business hotel chain with 400 hotels in Europe, Latin America, North America and Africa. China’s HNA Group has assets worth 40 billion Euros, including several airlines and investments in airports, hotels and other real estate.