Anbang Insurance Group – A Chinese Mystery


NYT

Owners of Anbang, a Chinese insurer behind a wave of multibillion-dollar deals, include relatives and friends of its politically connected chairman.

A tiny group of small-time merchants and villagers in China control multibillion-dollar stakes in the Anbang Insurance Group, a global deal maker that owns the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
American regulators are now asking who these shareholders are — and whether they are holding their stakes on behalf of others.

ANBANG

Pingyang County’s verdant hills still hint at a long-lost China. Rice paddies and villages surround its bustling towns, and in the fields, farmers wade into the mud to plant seedlings as they have for thousands of years.

It is an odd place to find the people behind a Chinese corporate powerhouse that is turning heads on Wall Street with a global takeover binge. Yet the area is home to a tiny group of just such people — small-time merchants and villagers who happen to control multibillion-dollar stakes in the Anbang Insurance Group, which owns the Waldorf Astoria in New York and a portfolio of global names and properties.

American regulators are now asking who these shareholders are — and whether they are holding their stakes on behalf of others.

The questions add to the mystery surrounding a company that seemed to come out of nowhere, surprising deal makers with offers to pay more than $30 billion for assets around the world.

Anbang’s shopping spree is part of an outflow of money from China that has reshaped global markets but has often been shrouded in secrecy, sometimes by prominent Chinese looking to shift their wealth abroad without attracting attention at home. That poses a problem for international regulators trying to identify the buyers behind major acquisitions and to assess the riskiness of these deals.

The Anbang shareholders in the Pingyang County area hold their stakes through a byzantine collection of holding companies. But according to dozens of interviews and a review of thousands of pages of Anbang filings by The New York Times, many of them have something in common: They are family members and acquaintances of Wu Xiaohui, Anbang’s chairman, a native of the county who married into the family of Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader in the 1980s and ’90s.

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