This Little-Known Chinese Firm Is Buying a Fortune 500 Insurer for $2.7 Billion

October 24, 2016, 4:41 AM UTC
Genworth Financial Inc. Chief Executive Officer Thomas McInerney Interview
Thomas "Tom" McInerney, president and chief executive officer of Genworth Financial Inc., listens to a question during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York, U.S., on Friday, June 27, 2014. McInerney said the company is launching a new product in July, allowing customers to choose the amount of premium coverage they can afford. Photograph: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

China Oceanwide Holdings Group has agreed to buy U.S. insurer Genworth Financial for $2.7 billion in cash, the latest in a series of moves by Chinese firms to buy overseas assets as their domestic economy slows and the yuan weakens.

In a joint statement on Sunday, Genworth and privately held and family-owned China Oceanwide Holdings said the Chinese firm will pay $5.43 per share to acquire all the Richmond, Virginia-based firm’s outstanding shares. The price is a modest 4.2% premium to Genworth’s (GNW) Friday closing price.

But the Beijing-based holding firm, little known but founded by well-connected Chinese businessman Lu Zhiqiang, agreed to commit another $1.12 billion towards Genworth debt maturing in 2018 and life insurance claims charges, the statement said. Both firms’ boards backed the deal, which remains subject to regulatory approvals and likely won’t close before mid-2017.

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The purchase comes amid a hectic year for Chinese buyers chasing overseas assets. So far, 2016 has seen mainland firms launch a record $181 billion of overseas mergers and acquisitions – about 70% more than the whole of last year.

Chinese investment holding firms have joined insurers like Fosun International and unlisted Anbang Insurance Group in leveraging accumulated capital to buy global assets. Some recent purchases have also come from Chinese property companies, keen to reduce reliance on their home market.

Some recent Chinese bids have attracted intense regulatory scrutiny overseas. But rarely has an insurance deal by a Chinese acquirer been blocked outright by international watchdogs, according to people familiar with these transactions.

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In some cases Chinese buyers have also been paying top dollar to secure insurance assets. Thaihot Group paid nearly three times Dah Sing Financial Holdings Ltd’s 2015 embedded value in a recent $1.4 billion purchase. That was more than double the valuation at which a previous Hong Kong insurance deal was done.

Beijing-based China Oceanwide – described by Genworth President & Chief Executive Officer Tom McInerney as “an ideal owner” going forward – is also the controlling shareholder of Hong Kong-listed China Oceanwide Holdings, worth about $1.6 billion by market value.

McInerney said the capital commitment from China Oceanwide would strengthen Genworth’s business, increasing the likelihood of obtaining regulatory approval.

The parent group’s operations span financial services, energy, culture and media, and real estate assets globally, employing more than 10,000 employees worldwide.

Genworth, which traces its roots back to 1871 and went public in 2004, has mortgage insurance operations in the United States, Canada and Australia, well as U.S. life insurance business. Shares in Genworth’s Australia unit, Genworth Mortgage Insurance Australia, rose 1.9% on Monday on the news.

Goldman Sachs and Lazard are acting as financial advisors to Genworth. Citigroup and Willis Capital Markets & Advisory are acting as financial advisors to China Oceanwide, according to the statement.

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