Anbang Chairman Reportedly Arrested In China

Lucy Hill
June 15, 2017

Other senior managers are authorized to carry out Wu's responsibilities and operations are normal, the Beijing-based company said in a statement posted on its website.

While Wu has stepped down, Anbang said in its statement that business continues "as usual".

"Anbang's rise to worldwide prominence has been much like that of modern China itself - meteoric, with mystical origins, and often misunderstood", said Brock Silvers, managing director of Kaiyuan Capital, a Shanghai-based investment advisory firm.

China's central bank was said to be looking into suspected breaches of anti-money laundering rules at the insurer late a year ago, while the authorities temporarily banned Anbang's life insurance unit from selling new products last month. The two companies later became shareholders of Anbang.

The China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) has been taking stringent measures to curb the risky, short-term products pioneered by Anbang and favoured by insurers since the high-profile dismissal of its former chairman Xiang Junbo in April.

Anbang is one of the biggest issuers of speculative wealth management products in China.

But the company, which has faced questions over who owns it, has also attracted scrutiny from Chinese authorities at a time when they're attempting to stabilize the country's financial services industry and clamp down on corruption. The business magazine Caijing reported that Wu was detained on Friday in the capital, but the piece was later taken down. That article ricocheted around social media sites before the post was deleted.

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Anbang Insurance Group Co., the Chinese company that was at the forefront of a global acquisition spree before abruptly reversing course, said Chairman Wu Xiaohui is unable to perform his duties for personal reasons amid local media reports that he has been taken away for questioning.

The firm has made a splash on the global stage in recent years, but mostly for deals that haven't worked out.

The Beijing-based firm in 2016 offered US$14 billion for USA hotel operator Starwood but pulled out from what would have been the largest Chinese takeover of a USA company. That deal foundered amid controversy over the extended family of the USA president selling to a politically connected Chinese tycoon.

But in April US insurer Fidelity & Guaranty Life turned down a $1.6 billion acquisition bid by Anbang.

When asked if Wu was within China or if he could be reached, a spokesperson for Anbang - which employs more than 30,000 people and manages 1.97 trillion yuan ($290-billion) in assets - said the company had nothing to add.

Over the past three years, Anbang has secured acquisitions worth more than US$30 billion - a diverse list that has raised regulatory questions at home and overseas.

Mr Wu has said that he worked at least 12 hours a day, while those working with him said calls from him at all hours of the day or night were not uncommon. Occasionally, he sleeps in his office.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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