United Kingdom

Currency exchange giant ICE set to change hands

One of Britain's biggest currency exchange firms could be about to change hands for about £150million after its secretive Chinese owner put it up for sale.

City sources said advisers from Houlihan Lokey had been appointed to sell International Currency Exchange (ICE) on behalf of HNA, the controversial Chinese conglomerate that recently declared itself bankrupt. ICE was set up 48 years ago with one outlet in London's Victoria Station.

It now has more than 350 outlets, many in airports across the world. Reports suggest the firm has a turnover of £1.3billion a year.

International Currency Exchange has more than 350 outlets, many in airports across the world

HNA bought ICE from Lenlyn Holdings in 2016 during a period in which state-backed Chinese firms carried out an unprecedented debt- fuelled acquisition spree.

HNA, which also owns Hainan Airlines, was one of the most aggressive Chinese companies on the acquisition trail. It also bought airline caterer Gategroup, and sizeable stakes in hotels group Hilton Worldwide and Deutsche Bank.

But the Chinese giant ran into trouble after racking up a reported £70billion of debt. It was forced into a debt restructuring and in January declared itself bankrupt.

Reports suggest Global Exchange Group, a Spanish firm, is weighing up a bid for ICE.

Bureaux de change have had a tough time since the pandemic limited foreign travel. Travelex, another currency exchange firm, went through a financial restructuring that saw its bondholders take control of the business.

Creditors to Travelex, such as Heathrow Airport, reportedly suffered a shortfall of more than £319million, and the future of foreign holidays remains uncertain.

International Currency Exchange did not return requests for comment. HNA could not be reached for comment. Houlihan Lokey declined to comment.

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