Adult supervision: Chinese regulator takes control of Anbang


Anbang is of particular interest because its chairman, Wu Xiaohui, married a granddaughter of the former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

It is estimated that Anbang has worldwide assets exceeding $300 billion, including New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel and Westin St. Francis in San Francisco.

He said the Chinese government's move is "fairly rational" given the concerns about Anbang's business model.

Anbang, in particular, came under scrutiny in the U.S. and elsewhere for its opaque ownership structure and for the political ties of its former chairman Wu Xiaohui, The New York Times reported.

Anbang grew from a domestic seller of property insurance into a financial services powerhouse, hitting headlines in 2014 when it bought the landmark Waldorf Astoria in NY for a record $1.95 billion (€1.58 billion).

Following the takeover, all asset transactions, capital transfers and non-insurance contracts must be approved by a 31 member task force appointed by the CIRC, according to the statement, which referred to Wu as Anbang's "former chairman".

Wu's name did not appear in Anbang's corporate ownership records.

The CIRC said Anbang had violated regulations, putting into question its solvency, and would be overseen for a year by a group that includes China's central bank and other government agencies. However, the Chinese government questioned how sustainable their business model could be and took steps to halt their expansion past year, ordering banks to stop conducting business deals with the company.

But the fact that the takeover is for only a year signals that regulators still have not worked out any long-term resolution of Anbang's fate.

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"Currently, operations at Anbang Insurance Group and its units are operating normally with abundant cash reserves".

Anbang has aggressively pursued A-share equity investments and has built up a big holding of stocks.

Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group Co acquired Vancouver-based Retirement Concepts, which owns 24 homes in BC, Calgary and Montreal, after the Trudeau government controversially greenlighted the billion-dollar sale previous year.

Though the companies are privately owned, their leaders often benefited from their political connections, and they were often backed by cheap debt provided by China's state-run banks.

Wu had turned over his management duties to other executives in June following a report he was detained by regulators amid accusations of possible financial misconduct.

A spokesman for Anbang Insurance Group declined to comment and referred to the CIRC announcement.

In the process, the company began to draw regulatory scrutiny over its sale of dubious insurance and wealth management products such as "Anbang Win-Win #3", a three-year product offering a 5.1 percent guaranteed payout. The company said the money was raised from shareholders.

Under Wu, Anbang was among China's most active overseas investors after the government liberalized offshore investment rules earlier this decade.

British Columbia's biggest retirement home chain came under China's government's control today. It said the business would operate as usual.