CALGARY – The Chinese government has taken over the control of Anbang Insurance Group, the largest owner of old people's homes in British Columbia, after an investigation by the former chairman of the insurer.
The China Insurance Regulatory Commission Friday took over the acquisition of Anbang, a Beijing-based private insurer with real estate around the world, referring to the "illegal business practices" of the company and the prosecution of its former chairman Wu Xiaohui.
Last February, Anbang Retirement Concepts from Vancouver, which owns senior facilities in BC and Alberta, purchased an estimated $ 1 billion, following both provincial and federal government reviews of the transaction.
"In our discussions with Anbang, we understand that no personnel changes will take place outside China as a result of this decision," Pacific Reach Properties president and CEO Azim Jamal said in an e-mail. Pacific Reach manages the properties of Retirement Concepts.
"We expect it to be self-evident for Ahold Concepts," Jamal said, adding that his "working relationship with Anbang leadership in Canada was excellent."
But not everyone is convinced.
"These are not just regular transactions of some (property investment trust)," said conservative MP and foreign critic Erin O & # 39; Toole, while the addition of the opposition was concerned about the potential for Chinese officials to take over from Anbang. last year. "This is an arm of the Chinese state," he said.
"When the Anbang card house finally collapses, who will get control over these senior care facilities in BC?" Conservative MP Mark Strahl asked the House of Commons last year after confirmation that Wu had been arrested by Chinese authorities.
"Are the elderly on the verge of finding out that their landlord is actually the People's Republic of China?" He asked.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded at the time that the old people's homes would continue to be regulated by BC "Ensure that the rules for the care of seniors are followed."
China's state-controlled Xinhua News agency reported that Anbang would remain a private insurer, but added that there would be a "shareholder restructuring" if the insurance regulator, the People & # 39; s Bank of China and other government agencies take over the company for the following year.
Are seniors on the verge of finding out that their landlord is actually the People's Republic of China?
Conservative member of parliament Mark Strahl
The bureau also reported that prosecutors in Shanghai cheat Wu with fraud and embezzlement.
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, who oversees the ministry that approved the sale, did not respond to a request for comment.
In recent years, Anbang has been an aggressive buyer of property throughout the world by buying New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel for USD 2 billion in 2014. The company has also bought US $ 6 billion in 2016 from other hotels in The US
The Chinese government has tried to limit the capital leaving the country and the China Securities Regulatory Commission has emphasized the major insurance companies.
Even with that warning, the seizure of a large non-state company is unprecedented and underlines how far the ruling Communist Party will go in its growing campaign to reduce financial risk and send a signal to private companies that take risks.
Anbang also has important interests in a scam of large Chinese companies, such as banks and project developers.
China Minsheng Banking Corp. Ltd., China Merchants Bank Co. Ltd. Ltd., developers China Vanke Co. Ltd. Ltd. and Gemdale Corp. said they received notifications from Anbang on Friday to assure them that there would be no immediate sale of the bet.
"Currently, the activities of Anbang Insurance Group and its units normally operate with abundant cash reserves and there are no plans to sell shares in your company," said the companies that Anbang mentioned in similar documents to the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges.
If the government acquisition led to the sale of assets, analysts in Canada believe there is considerable interest in the properties of Retirement Concepts.
"If Anbang undergoes a number of dispositions and the portfolio of pension concepts is either sold in pieces or sold as a whole, I would imagine that these public entities would have an interest," said the director of Canaccord Genuity, research Jenny Ma, which covers Canadian real estate investment trusts.
She said that Mississauga, Ont.-based Chartwell Retirement Residences and Markaham, Ont.-based Sienna Senior Living Inc. both buyers would be for the properties, if there was a tendency to sell.
"These two entities have been very overbearing lately," said Ma.
Financial post with files from Reuters