Turkish Airlines is interested in HNA Group’s minority stake in Virgin Australia as it seeks growth in the Asia-Pacific region, according to people familiar with the matter.

Turkey’s national flag carrier, or Turk Hava Yollari, as it’s formally known, is among companies looking at HNA’s 20 percent stake in the Australian airline, said the people, asking not to be named because the discussions are private. Deliberations are preliminary and may not result in a deal, the people said.

A Turkish Airlines spokesman didn’t return calls or mailed questions seeking comment, while a representative for HNA Group declined to comment.

The troubled Chinese conglomerate was open to offers for its stake in Virgin Australia as part of its efforts to cut debt, Bloomberg News reported in August last year. Singapore Airlines and Nanshan Capital, which each control about a fifth of Virgin Australia’s shares, were among the companies weighing a bid, people familiar with the matter said at that time.

HNA also has about dozen of airlines in its portfolio including Hainan Airlines, Lucky Air and Tianjin Airlines.

The Chinese firm is selling assets after racking up one of the nation’s biggest corporate debt loads in a global acquisition spree. It also considered selling its majority stake in oil storage and logistics business HG Storage International as well as container-leasing business Seaco, tech outsourcing arm Pactera Technology International and aircraft-maintenance firm SR Technics, Bloomberg News has reported.

Turkish Airlines has been evaluating potential investments in other airlines to help safeguard expansion if the rise in protectionism presents hurdles to growth. It set up a joint venture in Albania last year.

The airline plans to boost its fleet size to 474 planes by 2023 including 25 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, according to its website. It took delivery of the first Dreamliner in June as part of a deal for 40 of the jumbo jets.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Haze Fan, Ercan Ersoy and Manuel Baigorri from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Photo Credit: Virgin has many suitors. Bloomberg