China orders insurer Anbang to sell foreign assets: report

Beijing (AFP) –


China has ordered Anbang Insurance Group, the conglomerate which owns New York's historic Waldorf Astoria hotel, to sell its overseas assets, Bloomberg News reported Monday.

The financial news agency, which cited unidentified people familiar with the matter, said Chinese authorities have told Anbang to bring the proceeds back to China after disposing of holdings abroad.

The company denied the claims, telling Bloomberg in a statement: "Anbang at present has no plans to sell its overseas assets."

"Currently, Anbang's various businesses and operations are all normal, and the company has ample cash and sufficient solvency capabilities."

The news comes less than two months after the departure of the firm's president Wu Xiaohui, who was reported to have been detained in June.

Beijing began last year to roll out restrictions to curb capital flight overseas. Regulators are now investigating potentially risky loans to large companies such as the Wanda, HNA and Fosun conglomerates.

The clampdown follows several overseas "shopping sprees" last year which raised concerns about reckless spending abroad.

Financial watchdogs are now focused on managing what are termed "grey rhinos" -- risky financial practices that have long been visible but ignored.

Anbang, established just 13 years ago, has grown from a domestic seller of property insurance into a financial services powerhouse, making a name for itself abroad by buying the Waldorf Astoria for a record $1.95 billion in 2014.

Anbang also made a $14 billion dollar bid for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, but pulled out of a bidding war with Marriott, which ended up buying Starwood last year.

The company was also in aborted talks with Jared Kushner, a White House adviser and US President Donald Trump's son-in-law, to redevelop a Manhattan office tower, Bloomberg reported this March.