The deep pockets of China's Anbang Insurance Group is the talk of the hotel industry lately because of its last-minute play to outmaneuver Marriott International in a $13 billion cash bid for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. But that big buyout proposal is not Anbang's only foray into the U.S. hotel industry. The well-connected Chinese conglomerate has agreed to pay Blackstone Group $6.5 billion for Strategic Hotels & Resorts, a portfolio of 16 properties that includes several Four Seasons and other luxury hotels. That is $450 million more than Blackstone paid for the group in December 2015.
The Blackstone deal includes the Four Seasons hotels in Washington, D.C.; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; and Silicon Valley, Calif.; as well as New York City's Central Park-facing Essex House and the Ritz-Carlton south of San Francisco. Overall, the deal could net Anbang more than 7,500 of the most expensive hotel rooms in the U.S.
Angbang's nearly $2 billion acquisition of the iconic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, which was completed last year, attracted intense scrutiny from the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States over possible national-security concerns. President Barack Obama used to stay at that hotel when visiting United Nations headquarters in New York, but last year opted for the Lotte New York Palace Hotel. Anbang's acquisition of Strategic Hotels & Resorts might give the CFIUS similar pause, since several of the properties in that portfolio -- such as the W Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C., overlooking the U.S. Treasury -- host a steady clientele of business and government guests.
"Anything with a line of sight to a major U.S. government entity or security facility has to be a questionable part of the transaction and needs to be assessed by CFIUS," Mike Wessel, a member of the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, told Reuters.