Anbang Insurance Group and local competitors are being examined by China's insurance regulator as concerns grow about the sector’s aggressive investment policies.
The order to inspect Anbang, along with Shenzhen-based Funde Sino Life Insurance and at least one other group comes from the highest echelons of the central government, according to a person with close ties to Beijing.
Anbang has been on an overseas acquisition spree that includes the $2bn purchase of New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, a $6.5bn deal to buy Strategic Hotels & Resorts and an unsuccessful $14bn bid for Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
Caixin, a respected business news website, reported earlier this week that the China Insurance Regulatory Commission had dispatched an "investigation and research team" to Anbang's offices to learn more about the company's business.
The focus of the CIRC examination is not clear.
But it comes at a time when some investors have been asking questions about how the Chinese insurance industry has been financing its acquisitions.
Funde did not answer calls seeking comment. The CIRC declined to comment by phone and did not respond to faxed questions.
Representatives of Anbang declined to comment.
Many Chinese insurers have used rapid premium growth in recent years to fund illiquid investments both in the country and abroad. A large amount of these premiums comes from short-term, high-yielding policies that are more like wealth management products than protection policies. This business model creates the risk that insurers won't have enough cash on hand to meet promised payouts.
The inspections of Anbang and Funde appear to be part of a broad regulatory enforcement campaign by the CIRC. Last week the agency published a notice on its website criticising several insurers for failing to disclose related-party transactions.
Caixin has separately reported that the CIRC had decided to enter Funde after receiving allegations that a senior executive had improperly transferred assets. In statement posted on its website late Monday, Funde denied the allegation against its executive and said it would "actively cooperate" with any regulatory investigation.
The CIRC inspections also follow Anbang’s decision to withdraw its Starwood bid largely due to doubts about whether the insurer could gain Chinese regulatory approval for an overseas deal of that size.
Recently, European regulators have blocked potential Chinese acquisitions of banks and insurers, in part out of concern over high debt levels used to finance the potential deals.
"When they say they want to be Warren Buffett, Chinese insurers mean they want to use other people's money, not to be value investors," said one Hong Kong analyst.
Meanwhile, Anbang’s $1.57bn offer for life insurer Fidelity & Guaranty Life is still pending approval from regulators in the US states of Iowa and New York, as well as from the CIRC. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the multi-agency body that screens foreign acquisitions for national security issues, has already signed off on the transaction.
Additional reporting by Don Weinland and Ma Nan
由于保险行业激进的投资政策引起的担忧加剧，安邦保险集团(Anbang Insurance Group)及其国内竞争对手正在接受中国保险监管机构的调查。
一位与北京方面联系密切的人士表示，调查安邦、总部位于深圳的富德生命人寿(Funde Sino Life Insurance)以及至少另一家保险集团的命令，来自中央政府最高层。
安邦一直在大举进行海外并购，包括以20亿美元收购纽约的华尔道夫酒店(Waldorf Astoria hotel)，以65亿美元收购Strategic Hotels & Resorts，以及未成功的140亿美元竞购喜达屋酒店及度假村国际集团(Starwood Hotels & Resorts)。
另一方面，安邦以15.7亿美元报价收购信保人寿保险公司(Fidelity & Guaranty Life)的交易，仍在等待美国爱荷华州和纽约州监管机构，以及中国保监会的批准。美国外国投资委员会(Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, Cfius)已批准了该交易。Cfius是美国的一个跨部门机构，负责对影响国家安全的外资收购案进行审核。
Don Weinland和Ma Nan补充报道