Minsheng says loan to Anbang was ‘only US$100m’

Head of Hong Kong-listed bank brushes aside speculation about a loan of up to US$15 billion to embattled mainland insurer

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 June, 2017, 11:06pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 June, 2017, 11:16pm

The head of Hong Kong-listed China Minsheng Banking said it had lent Anbang Insurance Group only US$100 million, brushing aside speculation about a loan of up to 100 billion yuan (US$15 ­billion) to the insurance and financial giant, mainland ­media reported.

The remarks by the bank board chairman, Hong Qi, came after reports that Anbang chairman Wu Xiaohui had been ­detained for investigation.

Hong told a shareholders’ meeting that the loans were ­secure and that the bank’s operations had not been affected by the controversy surrounding the ­insurance group, financial magazine Caixin reported on Sunday.

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Hong was quoted by the magazine as saying that the loan to ­Anbang was for US$100 million, and that it had been guaranteed with collateral.

“It is precisely because ­Anbang is a major shareholder that our controls are stricter and we strictly disclose related-party transactions,” he said in the report.

Caixin reported last Tuesday that the high-flying Wu, who married the granddaughter of late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, had been taken away for investigation.

Anbang said the following day that its chairman was “unable to perform his duties for personal reasons”, giving no details. Wu’s whereabouts are still unknown.

Anbang has been increasing its stake in Minsheng Bank since 2014.

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Speculation has been rife that Wu was detained over a 100 billion yuan loan from Minsheng.

“What has happened to ­Anbang has not had that much of an impact on us,” Caixin cited Hong as saying.

“The share ownership of ­Minsheng is dispersed. Although [Anbang] is its biggest share­holder, it is truly nothing more than a financial investor to us.

“The China Banking Regulatory Commission has not yet approved the relevant board membership [recommended by Anbang].”

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The Caixin report added that Hong had said Minsheng would continue selling Anbang’s insurance products.

Anbang was a low-profile insurer when Wu founded it in 2004. But as one of the most politically connected billionaires in China, Wu has managed to make it the third-largest insurance group on the mainland, with assets worth as much as 1.65 trillion yuan.