Thursday 14 December 2017

Newsmaker: Wu Xiaohui, Anbang Insurance Group Chairman

Anbang Insurance Group founder and chairman Wu Xiaohui, pictured last year with Blackstone's Stephen Schwarzman. Photo: Bloomberg
Anbang Insurance Group founder and chairman Wu Xiaohui, pictured last year with Blackstone's Stephen Schwarzman. Photo: Bloomberg

China's Anbang Insurance Group has signed global acquisition deals worth more than $30bn in little more than a year, moving from virtual unknown into the big league of global real estate and finance.

Its founder and chairman Wu Xiaohui - pictured last year with Blackstone's Stephen Schwarzman - is a native of the Chinese coastal city of Wenzhou, which has a reputation for producing entrepreneurs.

In the past week his company bid $12.8bn for US hotel operator Starwood and also agreed this month to pay Blackstone Group $6.5bn for Strategic Hotels & Resorts.

The portfolio includes the Four Seasons Washington DC, a redoubt of some of the world's most powerful business and political leaders.

Business associates describe Wu as passionate, impatient and very ambitious. He often travels by private jet accompanied by a retinue of assistants.

His acquisition strategy is underpinned by an aggressive pursuit of yield-producing companies, those business associates say, funded by cash generated in China from the sale of insurance products and other sources.

In China Anbang has a major stake in China Minsheng Banking Corp, a big bank, and in China Vanke, the country's biggest housebuilder.

When he set up Anbang, Wu enlisted a small consortium of private and state investors led by Shanghai Automotive Industry Group Corp, the parent of a state-controlled car maker with operating links to General Motors and Volkswagen. Wu is well connected to China's Communist Party elite.

The 49-year-old businessman is married to Deng Zhuorui, a granddaughter of the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

Anbang's original board included Levin Zhu, the former chief executive of China International Capital Corp and a son of former premier Zhu Rongji.

It also included Long Yongtu, who acted as the country's chief negotiator when China joined the World Trade Organization, as well as Chen Xiaolu, son of Revolutionary era military leader and Communist Party chief Marshal Chen Yi.

"In 10 years, Anbang will have companies on all the world's continents," Wu told students at Harvard University last year.    

Irish Independent

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