China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co. Ltd. and HNA Group Co. Ltd. separately considered buying stakes in German insurer Allianz SE as part of plans to create a global financial empire, people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The conglomerates weighed buying a majority stake in the world’s fourth-largest insurer by market value – worth over $95 billion – while HNA was also open to a minority stake, said two people who were involved in the discussions.
The separate talks, which were at an early stage and did not result in formal bids, were called off earlier this year on expected regulatory hurdles in Germany and China and due to little interest shown by Allianz’s management, they said.
It’s “highly unlikely” those plans would be revived in the near future, one of the people said.
A bid to acquire a controlling stake in Allianz, one of nine insurers of global systemic importance, would have ran into political and regulatory hurdles, as the insurer is a German stalwart that holds a huge amount of capital and is an important pillar for local pensions.
The people spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity due to sensitivity of the issue.
HNA’s plans to buy a stake in Allianz, which is not seen as a takeover candidate due to its size and importance in Germany’s financial sector, was first reported on Wednesday by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
Representatives at Allianz, Anbang and HNA – which has announced over $50 billion in deals since 2015 including stakes in Deutsche Bank AG and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc – all declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
Although the talks did not continue for long, the plans for possible separate bids for Allianz reveal ambition among Chinese conglomerates including Anbang and HNA to create a global empire through large, debt-fueled acquisitions.
Massive overseas deals has resulted in Chinese regulators ramping up scrutiny this year of outbound acquisitions – ranging from football clubs to movie studios – of groups including Anbang, HNA, Fosun and Dalian Wanda.
The government has increased restrictions on overseas acquisitions in recent months and has leant on domestic banks to reduce lending that helped fuel the shopping spree and saw local firms spending a record $221 billion on assets overseas in 2016.
(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; additional reporting by Matthew Miller and Tom Sims; editing by Clara Ferreira-Marques and Christopher Cushing)
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