The Hainan branch of the government-owned China Development Bank (CDB) has been fined exactly CNY42.6616 million yuan (USD6.56 million) for issuing an external guarantee for a loan to HNA Group without authorisation, according to a statement from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), the Chinese government’s foreign exchange and international trade agency.

The Hainan branch of the foreign exchange regulator released the statement on March 10, showing that the bank had provided an “unauthorised provision of external guarantees” and had violated the agency’s rules on cross-border guarantees, resulting in the fine and a warning.

Sources told Caixin Media that the CDB had illicitly provided a letter of guarantee on the request of flagship firm Hainan Airlines Holding in 2017. This was used to secure a CNY2 billion (USD308 million) loan taken by an “overseas” HNA unit, the Hong Kong subsidiary of Grand China Air (CN, Haikou), from an overseas branch of a large Chinese state-owned bank.

The CDB allegedly failed to conduct a reasonable review of the authenticity of the loan, including the borrower’s ability to repay and the planned use of the funds, the SAFE statement indicated.

CDB is the largest creditor of HNA Group, which is currently embroiled in a court-led restructuring process. According to Caixin, the group has obtained more than CNY80 billion (USD12.3 billion) in loans from the bank, the Hainan branch being the main source.

In January, the regulator punished the branch and penalised three of its former executives for trade finance violations allegedly linked to a scandal surrounding fallen conglomerate CEFC China Energy, which was declared bankrupt in March 2020. The CDB was its main creditor too.