Chairman Wu charts roller-coaster ride for Waldorf-owner Anbang

Terrell Bush
June 15, 2017

According to Chinese media reports last night, Wu was taken away by authorities on Friday for questioning in relation to illegal loans.

Other senior managers are authorized to carry out Wu's responsibilities and operations are normal, the Beijing-based company said in a statement posted on its website.

However, the company was banned from issuing any new financial products for three months in May by China's insurance regulator, which cited shoddy risk-management practices.

The founder of the Chinese insurance company that bought New York City's Waldorf Astoria Hotel during a global acquisition spree has been detained by regulators, a business news magazine said Tuesday, following reports of possible financial misconduct.

Anbang's vertiginous rise has also brought unwanted attention.

Official heads have rolled too, including China's insurance regulator Xiang Junbo, who was sacked in April and faces an investigation.

Anbang drew worldwide attention in 2014, as it snapped up real estate and financial-services companies in Asia, the United States and Europe, often at large premiums.


But the company, which has faced questions over who owns it, has also attracted scrutiny from Chinese authorities at a time when they're attempting to stabilize the country's financial services industry and clamp down on corruption.

The Globe and Mail notes Anbang's deal to buy a British Columbia retirement-home chain will go ahead, and quotes the director of the Asia Society's Center on U.S. The insurer's offer to acquire US-based Fidelity & Guaranty Life fell through in April after it struggled to win regulatory approval.

Anbang has a reputation for unusually aggressive expansion in a Chinese insurance industry dominated by state-owned companies.

Anbang had denied earlier this month that Wu was prevented from travel after the Financial Times newspaper reported he had been prevented from leaving the country, citing four sources who had business dealings with him. Prominent financier Xiao Jianhua was taken by agents from a Hong Kong hotel earlier this year and presumed to have been brought back to China, according to local media reports.

Caijing didn't answer calls and emails requesting comment, while Anbang referred to its statement when asked to comment on the Caijing report. But it hasn't all been smooth sailing - Anbang has recently failed to close on a handful of investments and is facing criticism over its opaque structure.

Established in 2004 by Wu as an automotive and property insurer, Anbang has gained prominence in recent years, buying Dutch insurer Vivat, South Korea's Tong Yang Life Insurance and Strategic Hotels & Resorts in the US.

It has also taken significant stakes in a handful of listed domestic banks and property firms, including China Mingsheng Banking Corp, Agricultural Bank of China and China Vanke. Anbang, in response, called the descriptions "malicious" and "inaccurate" and has threatened to sue.

Other reports by TheDigitalNewspaper

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