An­bang’s big leg up

Chi­nese in­surer of­fers $11b to help Euro­pean star­tups

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By LI XIANG lix­i­ang@chinadaily.com.cn

Chi­nese in­surer An­bang In­sur­ance Group Co Ltd on Mon­day un­veiled a three­year loan pro­gram that will of­fer a to­tal of 10 bil­lion eu­ros ($10.97 bil­lion) to help Chi­nese star­tups and smaller com­pa­nies to do busi­ness in Europe.

The plan was an­nounced by An­bang chair­man Wu Xiao­hui at the China-Bel­gium Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Bei­jing. The loan will be ex­tended through An­bang’s bank­ing sub­sidiary Bank Nagel­mack­ers in Bel­gium.

The loan pro­gram is part of An­bang’s re­sponse to a Chi­nese gov­ern­ment call for greater sup­port for lo­cal small busi­ness, which have faced grow­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in gain­ing ac­cess to cap­i­tal amid the eco­nomic slow­down.

The pro­gram will also al­low An­bang to gain a higher yield from its in­vest­ments as in­sur­ers cope with more pres­sure on their in­vest­ment re­turns, amid the low in­ter­est rate en­vi­ron­ment in Europe.

Un­der the pro­gram, each in­di­vid­ual en­tre­pre­neur will get a max­i­mum 1 mil­lion euro loan. So far 10 Chi­nese busi­ness own­ers have been ap­proved for the fi­nanc­ing, Wu said.

The loan project also high­lighted An­bang’s com­mit­ment in the Euro­pean mar­ket af­ter its ac­qui­si­tion of Bel­gian in­surer Fidea NV and Delta Lloyd Bank Bel­gium, later re­branded as Bank Nagel­mack­ers, in 2014.

Best­known­for its high-pro­file pur­chase of New York’s famed Wal­dorf As­to­ria ho­tel, An­bang has been the big­gest Chi­nese in­vestor in Bel­gium. An­bang said its pres­ence in that coun­try also re­flects the po­ten­tial for bi­lat­eral trade and in­vest­ment be­tween China and Bel­gium.

“Low in­ter­est rates in Europe and China’s la­bor cost ad­van­tage will cre­ate huge mar­ket po­ten­tial that will be win-win for both Chi­nese and Bel­gian com­pa­nies,” Wu told the fo­rum.

Bel­gian Prime Min­is­ter CharlesMichel, who has just wrappedupa two-day visit to China, at­tended the eco­nomic fo­rum on Mon­day and vowed to at­tract more Chi­nese in­vest­ment.

Michel said that Bel­gium would serve as a spring­board for pan-Euro­pean de­vel­op­ment for Chi­nese in­vestors.

The coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional tal­ent pool and com­pet­i­tive real es­tate mar­ket would also make it an at­trac­tive in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tion, he added.

“We have seen many good ex­am­ples of Chi­nese in­vest­ment in Bel­gium. An­bang is an in­vest­ment suc­cess story for the Chi­nese in Bel­gium. We can do more and do bet­ter,” Michel said.

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