US reviews Waldorf Astoria sale to Chinese firm

UNITED NATIONS (REUTERS) - The United States said it is reviewing the sale to a Chinese firm of New York's famed Waldorf Astoria hotel, home to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as Washington and Beijing accuse each other of spying.

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc said last week it would sell the Waldorf Astoria hotel and residences to China's Anbang Insurance Group Co Ltd for US$1.95 billion (S$2.49 billion), one of the highest prices per room ever paid for a U.S. hotel.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, has a residence in the hotel. The property also accommodates a host of heads of state and government, including President Barack Obama, during the annual U.N. General Assembly and throughout the year.

"We are currently in the process of reviewing the details of the sale and the company's long term plans for the facility,"Kurtis Cooper, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said on Tuesday. The Waldorf Astoria has been the residence for U.S. envoys to the United Nations for more than 50 years, he noted.

Hilton said in a statement that it would continue to manage the hotel for Anbang for the next 100 years and that the property would "undergo a major renovation to restore the property to its historic grandeur".

"Any future decisions about the nature of that relationship (with the Waldorf Astoria) would need to factor in costs, the company's plans for the facility, the needs of the United States government and the U.S. Mission to the U.N., and any possible security concerns," Cooper said.

The United States and China have accused each other of spying.

The U.S. Justice Department charged five Chinese military members in May with hacking U.S. companies to steal trade secrets, prompting Beijing to suspend a Sino-U.S. working group on cyber issues. China denies the charges and has in turn accused Washington of massive cyber spying.