News Life and Health31 Jan 2018

China:Govt seeks sale of stake in Anbang

31 Jan 2018

China's government, which has been probing alleged financial wrongdoing at Anbang Insurance Group, is seeking to broker the sale of a stake in the insurer, reported Bloomberg citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Central Huijin Investment, a unit of China's sovereign wealth fund, has held preliminary discussions about buying a stake in Anbang, but failed to reach any agreement, said the people. It wasn't clear what the potential size of any stake sale would be, or who the selling shareholders are. The people asked not to be named because the deliberations are private.

Anbang Chairman Wu Xiaohui was detained by the authorities in June, throwing the acquisitive insurer into disarray. A working team that included China's insurance regulator was subsequently dispatched to Anbang to oversee the company's operations and ensure its stability, according to the people. Representatives from the police and the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection have also been involved in investigating Anbang, the people said.

Anbang burst onto the global scene with a string of high-profile acquisitions including New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel, and on the Chinese insurance market with aggressive sales of relatively risky short-term high-cash-value investment products. Anbang Life, founded in 2010, shot up to be among China's top three insurers within a short period of time on the sales of universal insurance products.

Details around its ownership are shrouded in secrecy. The firm in 2016 withdrew an application to acquire a US insurer amid reports that New York regulators had reservations about Anbang's ownership structure.

An Anbang representative declined to comment. Representatives at sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp and the CIRC didn't immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

President Xi Jinping and his top economic deputies have vowed to make controlling financial risks their priority, a pledge renewed at the Communist Party's twice-a-decade leadership congress last year. China's insurance regulator, along with the main banking watchdog, have announced a flurry of rules since last year to contain financial risks in the system.

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