Monday, 23 October, 2017

Chinese insurer reportedly detained amid financial probe

Chairman of Anbang Insurance Group Wu Xiaohui attends the China Development Forum in Beijing China Chairman of Anbang Insurance Group Wu Xiaohui attends the China Development Forum in Beijing China
Jeannie Matthews | 15 June, 2017, 02:21

The worrying combination of tighter short-term liquidity, and pessimism toward longer-term growth is reflected in China's inverted yield curve, with the benchmark yield on one-year Chinese government bonds rising above 10-year yield recently.

The report said that officials from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission met with a small group of Anbang staff on June 10 and didn't provide specific reasons for Wu being taken.

The company, which manages some 1.65tn yuan (£190bn; $242bn) worth of assets, said in a statement that the chairman's duties would be managed by other senior executives. China's central bank was said to look into suspected breaches of anti-money laundering rules at the insurer late a year ago, while authorities temporarily banned Anbang's life insurance unit from selling new products in May.

The two sides were reportedly negotiating a deal to redevelop one of Kushner Companies' Manhattan buildings. It said the reports caused "severe damages to the reputation of our company and Mr. Wu".

Rumors of Wu under investigation have gathered pace.

Spokespeople for Anbang did not respond to phone calls or emails Tuesday evening.

This comes just a week after Anbang denied a report from the Financial Times that Wu had been barred from leaving China.

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Zhang said Wu's detention, like the disappearance last January of billionaire Xiao Jianhua from a Hong Kong hotel in the middle of the night, likely reflects behind-the-scenes power struggles ahead of the 19th Party Congress later this year. Executives of a company controlled by tycoon Guo Wengui stood trial this month on charges of loan and foreign exchange fraud, the state-owned Xinhua News Agency reported, after Chinese authorities issued a request to Interpol for Guo's arrest in April.

Anbang was founded in 2004 as a sleepy provincial auto insurer and has since grown into an aggressive overseas buyer of insurers and real estate. Kushner's purview at the White House includes relations with China.

Last November, Wu Xiaohui, the chairman of Chinese financial giant Anbang Insurance Group, was having dinner at New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel, which Anbang owns, with Jared Kushner. The Waldorf acquisition was followed in short order by bids for six luxury resorts in the USA, including the landmark Hotel del Coronado near San Diego, California. Publicly available information shows Anbang holds major stakes (above 5 per cent) in eight firms listed in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The negotiations to redevelop 666 5th Avenue had came under scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers, who cited ethics concerns about the Chinese firm's potential investment. It wasn't clear if that investigation identified any wrongdoing.

Anbang is also rumoured to have a host of politically connected investors, but its ownership structure remains opaque.

The company has relied heavily on selling high-risk, short-term insurance policies to beef up its war chest for takeover bids through the capital market.

Earlier, Anbang had denied a report by the Financial Times that Mr Wu had been stopped from travelling overseas.

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