Thu, Mar 24, 2016 - Page 15 News List

Chinese regulator frowns on Anbang’s hotel bids

AFP, SHANGHAI

China’s insurance regulator is opposed to multibillion dollar bids by financial conglomerate Anbang Insurance Group Co (安邦保險集團) for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc and a stable of properties owned by hedge fund Blackstone Group LP, business magazine Caixin said.

Anbang has offered nearly US$13 billion for Starwood, owner of the Sheraton and Westin brands, as well as US$6.5 billion for the purchase of 16 luxury hotels from Blackstone.

However, another US hotel giant, Marriott International Inc, which had already agreed to take over rival Starwood before the Anbang move, now looks likely to win that deal after hiking its offer by more than US$1 billion this week to US$13.6 billion.

OVERSEAS CAP

The China Insurance Regulatory Commission is against both of Anbang’s proposed acquisitions under rules that reportedly ban insurers from investing more than 15 percent of their assets overseas, Caixin quoted a source as saying.

The regulator also had a “disapproving attitude” toward the deals, the magazine said in a report on its Web site late on Tuesday, but gave no other reasons.

The government agency and Anbang could not be reached for comment yesterday.

DIVERSIFICATION?

Anbang, which started as a property insurance firm before expanding into other financial services, has assets of 1.65 trillion yuan (US$254 billion).

The company has aggressively invested overseas through a string of deals. In November last year, Anbang bought US insurer Fidelity & Guaranty Life Insurance Co for US$1.6 billion, after snapping up South Korean insurer Tong Yang Life Insurance Co for about US$950 million and Dutch insurer Vivat for about US$167 million earlier in the year.

It bought New York’s historic Waldorf Astoria hotel in 2014, but analysts question why a Chinese insurance company wants to become an international hotelier.

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