Regulators remove Anbang chairman Wu Xiaohui for 'economic crimes', take over conglomerate

Anbang Insurance Group

Anbang Insurance Group

In particular, Bloomberg reported earlier this month that USA investment group Blackstone had held talks with Anbang about buying back the Waldorf Astoria and another hotel company; Anbang had paid Blackstone $8.5 billion for the two hotel companies.

Wu Xiaohui, the chairman of Chinese insurance and investment conglomerate Anbang Group, has been removed from his post and faces prosecution, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission said on Friday.

It made headlines in 2014 with a $US2 billion bid for the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in NY, before deals started falling through as questions arose as to how its global deals were being financed. It didn't specify what those activities were. That's when Wu was reported to have been detained by authorities. Representatives for Anbang, the Waldorf Astoria, and Strategic Hotel and Resorts did not respond immediately to Quartz's requests for comment.

The regulator said that the company's operations remain "stable" and that it will remain a private company.

It said its actions were aimed at keeping the firm operating as usual and to protect the rights and interests of consumers.

Anbang, like HNA and Wanda, has been reported to have been trying to sell foreign assets in recent months.

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The company was founded in 2004 as a provincial vehicle insurer but has since ballooned into a global giant. Including that deal, it spent more than $20 billion on 20 overseas purchases between 2014 and 2017, according to financial data provider Dealogic.

The insurance regulator confirmed he was being "prosecuted for economic crimes".

The government regulator said Anbang's business would continue and that its external liabilities would not be affected.

Other major Chinese deal-makers have come under increased pressure from authorities over the past year. "The government doesn't want to run the company directly in the long term, but it could break Anbang up and arrange for pieces of it to be acquired by more established firms".

But its overseas shopping spree was halted in June previous year, after Wu was placed under investigation and its funding and deals came under scrutiny.

Some companies have used substantial leverage while aggressively expanding, running the risk of "endangering entire financial system by adding on systemic risk", Hong told CNBC.

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