Anbang Insurance Group Co. notched up more than USD10 billion of foreign acquisitions during a three-year global takeover binge, a campaign that brought Chairman Wu Xiaohui into the orbit of Wall Street and Washington elites before coming to a halt as Chinese authorities moved to rein in acquisitive insurers.
Wu’s responsibilities have now been handed over to other senior executives, and Chinese authorities have asked banks to suspend some business dealings with the insurer after the chairman was detained. The move makes Wu the latest of several tycoons to run afoul of officials cracking down on financial risk-taking.
None flew higher than Anbang’s Wu, or crashed so precipitously. He burst onto the U.S. scene in October 2014, with the record $1.95-billion agreement to buy New York’s landmark Waldorf Astoria hotel. Five months later, he took on Marriott International Inc. with an 11th-hour rival bid for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, before walking away a few weeks later. Wu bought real estate and financial services companies in Asia, Europe and North America, including the purchase of Strategic Hotels & Resorts as well as an office building in midtown Manhattan to house Anbang’s U.S. headquarters.
The list of deals Anbang didn’t complete is about as long. Besides Starwood Hotels, Anbang failed to complete a purchase of Fidelity & Guaranty Life last April and talks for a potential investment in a Manhattan office building co-owned by the family of President Trump’s son-in- law Jared Kushner broke off in March. In Europe, deals involving Anbang that didn’t go ahead include Portugal’s Novo Banco, Hypo Real Estate AG in Germany and Heron Tower in London. China’s cross-border purchases overall plunged 67 percent during the first four months of this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Some of Anbang’s largest purchases
U.S. AND CANADA
Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York – 100% owned – Paid $1.95 billion – Acquired February 2015 – Condo conversion started in March will take about three years
717 Fifth Avenue in New York, Anbang’s U.S. headquarters – Office portion 100% owned – Paid about $415 million – Acquired around May 2015
Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc., based in Chicago – 100% owned – Deal valued at about $6.5 billion at time of agreement – Acquired September 2016 – Owns about 15 hotels, including marquee assets like San Francisco’s Westin St. Francis (valued at $1 billion by Real Capital Analytics Inc.), JW Marriott Essex House in New York ($705 million) and the InterContinental Chicago ($508 million)
Bentall Centre in Vancouver – 100% owned, bought in two stages – Terms not disclosed – Agreed in May 2016 to buy remaining 33 percent in a deal valuing the complex at more than CAD1 billion ($754 million), according to people familiar with the matter
InnVest Real Estate Investment Trust, one of Canada’s largest hotel owners – Stated acquirer was Bluesky Hotels & Resorts Inc., which may have ties to Anbang, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time – Paid CAD2.1 billion ($1.6 billion) – Acquired May 2016
70 York Street in Toronto, 17-story office building – 100% owned – Paid CAD110 million – Acquired September 2015
EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
Fidea NV, Antwerp, Belgium – Paid 369 million euros – Acquired May 2015
Delta Lloyd Bank, Brussels, Belgium – Paid 206 million euros – Acquired July 2015, now known as Nagelmackers
Vivat NV, Utrecht, Netherlands – Paid 1 euro for initial acquisition, agreed to invest 1.35 billion euros to recapitalize company – Acquired July 2015
Other European assets – Anbang used Vivat to purchase more than 500 million euros of office properties in cities including Amsterdam and Utrecht from Blackstone Group LP, people with knowledge of the matter said in October 2016 – The Dutch unit also acquired $1.1 billion of residential mortgages from Rabobank in deal announced in March 2016
Tongyang Life Insurance Co. in South Korea – Paid more than 1.1 trillion won ($969 million) for controlling stake – Acquired in September 2015
Allianz SE’s insurance operations in South Korea – Paid 1.6 million euros – Acquired in December 2016