Dismantling of troubled Chinese insurer Anbang continues as it sells bank stake for US$2.4 billion

  • Anbang continues spinning off business units and financial licences as it divest from debt-fuelled investment
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 8:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 10:58pm

Anbang Insurance Group is asking 16.8 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion) for its controlling stake in a commercial bank as the dismantling of one of China’s biggest private conglomerates continues.

Anbang is opening up an auction to sell the 35 per cent stake it owns in Chengdu Rural Commercial Bank, according to a filing to the Beijing Financial Assets Exchange on Wednesday.

The buyer will have to make sure half the agreed deal value is paid into a designated bank account within 10 working days of any deal, according to the filing.

“The strict payment requirements show Anbang is desperate for cash, to make up for low cash flow or to strengthen the capital ratio for solvency requirements,” said Sun Wujun, a professor at the School of Business of Nanjing University.

“Only some sizable state-owned firms, or a handful of private giants would have the ability to take over the assets, based on the payment requirements.”

Anbang hangs ‘for sale’ sign over majority stake in domestic securities firm

The sale of the bank stake is the third major asset disposal by Anbang, after a working group dispatched by China’s financial regulators took over the company in February.

Anbang’s founder and former chairman Wu Xiaohui was arrested before that, and was sentenced to 18 years in prison in May for fraud and embezzlement worth more than US$12 billion.

The move comes amid a broad selling spree by a group of Chinese conglomerates including HNA Group, CEFC China Energy, and the Tomorrow Holding Group, which have come under government scrutiny for their aggressive purchases at home and abroad in the past.

The insurance regulator injected 61 billion yuan into Anbang in April, as it worked to resolve its debt problems and make sure millions of insurance policy holders did not suffer losses as the company sank.

China Insurance Regulatory Commission, the watchdog, said the capital injection would be temporary and that it would sell the stake once the immediate risks were resolved, and that it would keep ensure Anbang remained privately owned.

However, the recent asset disposals have seen the company spinning off its most valuable business units and financial licences.

The first major divestment was made this September. Two state-owned companies formed a consortium and paid 3.6 billion (US$524 million) to buy Anbang’s 91.65 per cent stake in a securities company, called Century Securities. The two state-owned firms are Xiamen International Trade Group Corp and Shenzhen Qianhai Financial Holdings.

About two weeks ago, it put its 100 per cent stake in a financial leasing company, AB Leasing, on sale for 4.7 billion yuan.

Chengdu Rural Commercial Bank reported total assets of 705.6 billion yuan, and a net revenue of 4.3 billion yuan by the end of 2017.

Anbang, one of China’s largest insurers, claims on its website that it controls almost 2 trillion yuan of assets. The company is known for its aggressive global expansion, including the almost US$2 billion acquisition of New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel in 2014.