HNA Group Co. told creditors it will seek to sell about 100 billion yuan in assets ($16 billion) in the first half of the year as part of plans to repay debts and stave off a liquidity crunch, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company proposed to raise about 20 billion yuan in the first quarter and around 80 billion yuan in the second through the asset disposals, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions were private.

HNA is under increasing pressure to sell assets because of liquidity challenges after the conglomerate spent tens of billions of dollars on debt-fueled investments in recent years. The acquisition spree transformed a little known airline into one of China’s biggest business behemoths, with large stakes in everything from Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. to Deutsche Bank.

As of June, HNA had amassed $190 billion of assets — more than at American Express Co. The group also held almost $30 billion of shareholdings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and Real Capital Analytics estimates the conglomerate owns more than $14 billion in real estate properties worldwide.

HNA had 185.2 billion yuan of short-term debt — more than its cash and earnings can cover — as of the end of June, and borrowing costs for the conglomerate have risen since then amid investor concerns about the company’s ability to repay debt.

HNA representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

More recently, the company has stood out for its debts as concerns about its ability to repay loans and bonds have driven up its borrowing costs. HNA’s earnings can’t cover its interest expenses, which according to data compiled by Bloomberg, have soared to levels topping those of any non-financial Chinese company. The company’s ability to repay debt will face a potential shortfall of at least 15 billion yuan in the first quarter, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

–With assistance from Prudence Ho

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Photo Credit: Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which has stakes in travel companies that include Hilton and Carlson Rezidor hotels, and others, is undergoing financial challenges. Bloomberg News