Waldorf Astoria owner Anbang plans Hong Kong IPO of life insurance unit: sources

August 23, 2016 6:59 AM EDT

The Waldorf Astoria is pictured at 301 Park Avenue in New York October 6, 2014. . REUTERS/Brendan McDermid


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By Denny Thomas and Julie Zhu

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Anbang Insurance Group Co, which owns New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel, plans to list its life insurance business in Hong Kong and has invited investment banks to pitch for advisory mandates in the coming weeks, sources familiar with the matter said.

Beijing-based Anbang, which earlier this year aborted a $14 billion bid for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc (NYSE: HOT), has not set a firm timetable of the planned initial public offering (IPO), the people told Reuters..

However, one source said banks had been asked to submit requests for the proposal by Aug. 26, and an IPO could take place by mid 2017.

Privately-owned Anbang, established in 2004 as an auto insurer, has emerged as one of China's most aggressive acquirers of overseas assets in the past two years, spending more than $30 billion buying luxury hotels, insurers and other property assets. But its relentless pursuit of overseas assets and ad hoc style have raised regulatory questions both at home and abroad.

Chinese financial magazine Caixin reported in March that China's insurance regulator was likely to reject Anbang's bid for Starwood as it would put the insurer's offshore assets above a 15 percent threshold for overseas investments.

Anbang's decision to list its insurance business has surprised some, especially since the company is known to be secretive about its operations and little is known about its shareholders or the company itself.

Anbang's chairman Wu Xiaohui has given few press interviews, but he told a Harvard students gathering in 2015 that eventually all of Anbang's subsidiaries will be listed.

Anbang offers a full range of insurance products, and at the end of June its total life insurance premium was 228.4 billion yuan ($34.4 billion), accounting for 10 percent of China's life insurance market, according to the company's website. That makes it the country's second-biggest insurer behind state-owned China Life Insurance Co Ltd <601336.SS>.

Anbang has nearly 2 trillion yuan of assets under management, and has more than 30,000 employees and 35 million customers worldwide, its website says.

An external spokesman for Anbang [ANBANG.UL] declined to comment on Anbang's IPO plans. The sources declined to be identified as the information is not public.

(Reporting by Denny Thomas and Julie Zhu; Additional reportin by Elzio Barreto; Editing by Keith Weir and David Evans)



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