China’s Anbang Insurance is set to acquire $558 million worth of office properties in the Netherlands from Blackstone Group, a person with knowledge of the deal told Bloomberg. If completed, the deal would push the total value of property assets sold by Stephen A Schwarzman’s alternative investment giant to the controversial mainland firm to around $9.08 billion in less than three years.
Anbang, which has garnered attention for its close relationships with the Chinese elite and its aggressive pursuit of trophy assets globally, is said to be purchasing the assets through Vivat NV, a Dutch insurer it bought in 2015.
In 2013 Blackstone purchased a portfolio of six offices in the Netherlands from CBRE Global Investors for a combined €165 million (now $185 million) according to a report by real estate journal PERE News. The acquisition by Blackstone Real Estate Partners (BREP) Europe IV fund and the BREP VII global fund included buildings in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague.
Anbang Continues to Turn to Blackstone for Overseas Assets
The deal would become the third major international transaction between Anbang and Blackstone during the past two years. In 2015, it purchased the historic Waldorf Astoria in New York City from Blackstone-controlled Hilton Hotels and Resorts for $1.95 billion. The insurer has also nearly completed its acquisition of Strategic Hotels & Resort, a portfolio of 16 hotels, from a real estate fund managed by Blackstone for $6.5 billion.
An advisory firm partly owned by Blackstone also worked with Anbang on its ill-fated attempt to buy Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
Overseas Buying Pause Lasts One Month
At the start of September, the insurer controlled by entrepreneur Wu Xiaohui revealed that it intended to step back from making international acquisitions in an attempt to integrate its new purchases.
“We want to build up the existing synergies a bit first, and consider new deals when appropriate opportunities emerge,” Anbang Vice Chairman Yao Dafeng told Bloomberg. “You can’t just keep buying everyday. You need to also digest and absorb.” The announcement came after Chinese regulatory authorities were said to be examining the company’s operations for compliance with limits on deployment of assets overseas.
Anbang is also preparing an initial public offering of its life insurance operations in Hong Kong, which was cited by Yao as another reason for the firm wanting to pause its buying spree.
In 2015, the firm folded some of its overseas acquisitions into its life insurance arm, including the previously mentioned Vivat, South Korea-based Tongyang Life, Belgium lender Nagelmackers and insurer Fidea NV, in an attempt to consolidate.
Anbang Still Aiming For IPO Despite Unanswered Ownership Questions
While Wu, a former car insurance salesman, wants an IPO for Anbang’s life insurance operations, questions as to who actually owns the company have caused some problems for the billionaire.
A report in the New York Times revealed the bulk of the insurer’s current shareholders appear to be Wu’s relatives from the farm country surrounding his hometown of Wenzhou in the Zhejiang province. Additionally, many of the firm’s shareholders hold their stakes through little known or recently created firms.
The murky ownership saw US investment bank Morgan Stanley, Hong Kong’s top IPO arranger during the past ten years, decline to submit a proposal for what could be one next year’s largest public offerings.
Standard & Poor’s noted it is still unable to fully analyze the company’s financials due to Anbang’s unclear ownership structure.