Anbang Group has forged another deal with Blackstone, buying an Amsterdam hotel from the US private equity giant for €350 million (USD 391.6 million), Dutch real estate news site PropertyNL has reported. The deal marks Anbang’s latest acquisition from Stephen Schwarzman’s New York-based firm, in a partnership that has seen the controversial Beijing-based company purchase over USD 9 billion worth of overseas property from the alternative investment firm in less than three years.
Global real estate consultancy CBRE advised Blackstone in the sale of the 557-room DoubleTree by Hilton Amsterdam Central Station, located nearby the main train station in the Dutch capital. Blackstone picked up the hospitality asset as part of the eight-property Mint Hotel portfolio it acquired from Lloyds Banking Group in 2011 for a reported USD 950 million and later rebranded it with the Hilton marque. The other seven hotels in the portfolio are located in the UK.
Blackstone, which controls the Hilton Worldwide chain of hotels, had rebranded the Amsterdam property, along with the other Mint locations under the Hilton marque shortly after acquiring the group. The US buyout firm sold a roughly 25 percent stake in Hilton to China’s HNA Group last year.
Founded as an auto insurance company in 2004, Anbang has emerged in recent years as one of the most aggressive Chinese buyers of global real estate, snapping up some USD 30 billion in property and other assets. By picking up the Amsterdam hotel, the company is apparently following through on chairman and chief executive Wu Xiaohui’s enthusiasm for investments in Europe, while adding to its deal stream with Blackstone.
That relationship started with Anbang’s USD 1.95 billion 2014 purchase of another hotel from Blackstone – New York’s landmark Waldorf Astoria. Anbang followed that up with an even bigger hospitality deal with Blackstone, acquiring 15 properties of the 16-strong Strategic Hotels & Resorts portfolio in 2016 for approximately USD 5.5 billion. The Chinese firm then jumped into the European property market, buying a Dutch office portfolio from Blackstone for around €487 million (USD 546.4 million) in the fourth quarter of last year.
Anbang’s history with Blackstone also includes several failed deals, most notably last year’s abandoned USD 14 billion bid for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, which was brokered by Blackstone affiliated investment bank PJT Partners. Last November, the Beijing insurer was reported to be in talks with Blackstone to buy up to USD 2.3 billion worth of Japanese residential assets, but the deal never materialized.
This latest acquisition from Blackstone indicates that Anbang is still an active player in the investment game despite recent media accounts of legal and financial troubles and a series of failed deals by the insurance giant. Late last month, Anbang denied social media rumors that its chairman and founder, Wu Xiaohui, had been detained by Chinese authorities, and threatened a lawsuit against mainland news site Caixin following a report that Anbang had violated financial regulations.
In March, Kushner Companies, the New York developer formerly headed by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, announced that it had pulled out of talks with Anbang regarding a joint venture to redevelop Manhattan’s 666 Fifth Avenue office tower.
Despite these setbacks, Anbang is still moving forward with outbound deals, including reportedly boosting its investment in South Korea’s Tong Yang Life Insurance and Allianz Life Insurance Korea by USD 2.68 billion this week. Anbang purchased a 42 percent stake in Tong Yang Life Insurance, the eighth-biggest life insurer in South Korea, in 2015 and bought a 100 percent stake in the South Korea business of Germany’s Allianz Group last year.
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