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China Economy

US labour group demands Anbang Insurance reveal its ownership and financing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 August, 2017, 6:23am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 August, 2017, 6:24am

An American labour group representing more than 1,000 workers at hotels owned by Anbang Insurance Group is asking US authorities to force the Chinese firm to disclose its ownership and financing.

The union, Unite Here, filed its complaint with the US National Labour Relations Board after reports that Anbang faced pressure from the Chinese government to sell overseas assets. Such transactions could negatively impact union members, Unite Here said.

“Our members have a right to know who they’re working for,” said Elliott Mallen, a spokesman for the group. “Unlike more established owners and employers in our industry, Anbang has been extraordinarily secretive about its ownership, which causes us to question the company’s intentions for its hotels.”

A spokesman for Anbang declined to comment.

Unite Here has said it has union contracts at Anbang’s Westin St Francis, Loews Santa Monica and Fairmont Chicago hotels.

Anbang is among prominent Chinese companies that went on global shopping sprees in recent years, drawing attention in the US in 2014 by agreeing to acquire the landmark Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan.

Such buying power has prompted public calls for the companies to disclose more about their ownership and finances. In the meantime, Anbang Chairman Wu Xiaohui was detained for questioning in mid-June, while policies fuelling the firm’s growth have been all but banned by Chinese regulators.

Will Anbang sell its overseas assets including the Waldorf Astoria New York hotel?

Anbang’s rise in recent years was helped by sales of lucrative investment products that offered among the highest yields compared with peers.

China’s insurance regulator has clamped down in the past year on what it termed “improper innovation” and tightened rules on high-yield, short-term investment policies.

Anbang and insurers such as Foresea Life got caught up in the crackdown.

One Anbang product, called Anbang Longevity Sure Win No 1, boosted the firm’s life insurance premiums almost 40-fold in 2014 by offering yields as high as 5.8 per cent. That helped provide fuel for the firm’s more than US$10 billion of overseas acquisitions since 2014 and equally ambitious investing in the domestic stock market.

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