Anbang pauses to take stock after $18b buying spree

BEIJING • Anbang Insurance Group, known for its aborted attempt to buy Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in March, is turning its attention from chasing deals to digesting US$13.5 billion (S$18.2 billion) of overseas acquisitions announced since 2014.

The company will focus on integrating purchases, such as South Korea's Tongyang Life Insurance, vice-chairman Yao Dafeng said in an interview on Tuesday. While Mr Yao said Anbang will still continue to seek acquisitions, mostly insurers and banks, his comments suggest a deal spree that included buying New York's iconic Waldorf Astoria Hotel and mounting a US$14 billion bid for Starwood might abate.

"We want to build up the existing synergies a bit first, and consider new deals when appropriate opportunities emerge," Mr Yao said.

Anbang, founded in 2004, has been at the forefront of a record wave of overseas acquisitions by Chinese companies. The insurer, which has amassed assets across the United States, Europe and Asia, is now preparing an initial public offering in Hong Kong of its life insurance operations.

Anbang has faced calls for more disclosure by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services and drawn scrutiny for its unconventional dealmaking methods. Chairman Wu Xiaohui this year abruptly pulled out of the deal to buy the Starwood hotel chain, which would have been the biggest purchase of a US asset by a Chinese company.

The main reason for that decision was to strictly abide by the company's "price discipline", the company said in a statement.

The proposed IPO is part of efforts by Anbang to better integrate itself into the global community as an "open and transparent" player, said Mr Yao, who is also chairman of the life insurance unit.

Anbang folded four of the companies it acquired into the life unit last year. They include Tongyang Life, Dutch insurer Vivat, Belgium lender Nagelmackers and insurer Fidea, according to the unit's 2015 annual report. Net income at the consolidated division more than doubled from the previous year to 19.6 billion yuan (S$3.9 billion), while assets surged more than sevenfold to 921.6 billion yuan, according to the report.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2016, with the headline 'Anbang pauses to take stock after $18b buying spree'. Print Edition | Subscribe