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Acquisition of US insurer Genworth by Chinese company clears CFIUS

By Paul Welitzkin in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-06-12 15:48

A US government panel has dropped its objections to the acquisition of an American insurance company by a Chinese investment firm best known for its US commercial real estate projects.

Genworth Financial Inc and China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co said on Saturday that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) had completed its review of the proposed $2.7 billion buyout.

CFIUS found "no unresolved national-security concerns" with the proposed deal, Genworth said.

CFIUS, an interagency group that assesses the national security impact of foreign purchases of a US business, has been giving closer scrutiny to Chinese acquisitions in the US.

Earlier this year, CFIUS rejected Alibaba's Ant Financial Services Group's $1.2 billion takeover of money-transfer network MoneyGram International Inc, reportedly due to concerns about Chinese access to sensitive US personal data.

Genworth and Oceanwide have entered into a mitigation agreement that requires Genworth to use a US-based, third-party service provider to manage and protect the personal data of Genworth's American policyholders.

The deal still needs approval from other US, Chinese and international regulators.

Beijing-based China Oceanwide, a privately held firm started by businessman Lu Zhiqiang, agreed to acquire Genworth in 2016.

Genworth, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, focuses on home-mortgage insurance and long-term care insurance.

"Successfully concluding the CFIUS process is a major step in our efforts to complete this transaction, which will strengthen Genworth's financial position and allow us to bring Genworth's insurance expertise to China," Lu said in a statement.

Oceanwide has expanded from a locally based developer in China into a conglomerate with investments in banking, insurance and technology. In the US, Oceanwide has been an active participant in real estate deals in California, Hawaii and New York.

The news on the CFIUS review boosted Genworth's shares, sending them 26.5 percent higher, or $1.01, to $4.82 in New York trading on Monday.

The deal's approval was "somewhat surprising", given challenges other deals from Chinese buyers have faced, according to Tom Gallagher, an analyst at Evercore Partners Inc. At least 10 Chinese deals for US firms have unraveled during the Trump administration amid security concerns raised by CFIUS.

The Genworth decision underscores that Chinese transactions are winning approval, despite problems for some high-profile deals, said Anne Salladin, a lawyer at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP in Washington who works on CFIUS reviews.

Each deal raises unique issues that can be resolved through mitigation agreements with the panel, she said.

"People seem to think that there's a block against Chinese deals, and that's just not the case, despite the fact that they undergo intense scrutiny," Salladin said.

CFIUS reviews are confidential, and the panel declined to comment on the Genworth decision. In its most recent report to Congress, CFIUS highlighted that insurance is among the industries the panel pays particular attention to because insurers hold potentially sensitive data about people and businesses that are important to national security.

Saturday's news clears one hurdle for the insurer and boosts the probability of the deal being completed, but both companies still need a sign-off from state regulators, including overseers in Delaware, according to Sean Dargan, an analyst at Wells Fargo & Co.

Bloomberg contributed to this story.

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