Thursday, 14 November, 2019

China regulator issues guidance on tackling insurance fraud

4 2017 shows the Anbang logo on a building in Beijing 4 2017 shows the Anbang logo on a building in Beijing
Russell Knight | 23 February, 2018, 10:20

The CIRC said it will take over Anbang from February 23 for one year in a post on its official website.

Any decision related to capital movements, asset sales, information disclosure or contract signing will need approval by the committee, according the CIRC statement, which added that the commission's oversight could be extended for two years if necessary.

Anbang chairman Wu Xiaohui was detained for questioning in June 2017, by Chinese authorities, while the regulators worked to curb the policies fuelling the company's growth. It said swift action was necessary to "protect the legal rights of insurance clients".

The government regulator said Anbang's business would continue and that its external liabilities would not be affected.

The once-mighty Anbang Insurance Group Co. has been temporarily taken over by China's regulators and its boss is facing prosecution on charges including fundraising fraud and embezzlement.

"This appears to be an unprecedented takeover - a Chinese-style hostile takeover", said Scott Kennedy, director of the Project on Chinese Business & Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. The Chinese government has also been scrutinizing overseas deals by domestic companies as part of a massive effort to control potential systemic risks.

A spokesman for Anbang Insurance Group declined to comment and referred to the CIRC announcement.

China stock market
China stock markets

"Clearly a message is being fed back into the market and to private companies that being very innovative may not be looked on favorably in the long run", said Keith Pogson, senior partner for Asia-Pacific financial services at EY.

The CIRC said that Anbang's debts and obligations will not be impacted by the takeover. Last March, Anbang terminated negotiations with the Kushner Companies, the real estate entity formerly led by U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, to redevelop a Manhattan office tower.

The takeover was implemented under a broad provision in the country's insurance law allowing it to rectify violations of the law by insurance companies, it said. In the following months, Anbang began running into resistance from foreign regulators to its attempted acquisitions and came under tightening financial pressure.

Anbang distributes insurance through multiple channels.

Under Wu, Anbang was among China's most active overseas investors after the government liberalised offshore investment rules earlier this decade.

The tide began to turn against Anbang about a year and a half after the Waldorf-Astoria purchase announcement with the evaporation of a blockbuster deal that would have almost doubled its cumulative worldwide M&A total. In 2007, the government tapped an industry protection fund to take control of New China Life Insurance Co.by buying a major stake in the insurer, after its former chairman Guan Guoliang misused funds.

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