China’s largest insurer sets up US shop
The launch of China Life’s first ever US representative office on Wednesday confirms the company’s intent to up its investment in the United States.
China Life Insurance Company — ranked No 54 in the 2016 Fortune Global 500 with 2015 revenues of $101 billion — has been a major investor in US real estate.
The company recently led an investment in a stake in Starwood Capital Group valued at about $2 billion, taking a big share of the 280 hotels spread across 40 states.
In May, China Life took a sizable (but undisclosed) piece of 285 Sixth Avenue, a landmark Manhattan office building, in a deal worth $1.65 billion.
Last year, China Life spent more than $1 billion buying US warehouses, and together with Ping An Insurance Company of China, it co-invested in a Tishman Speyer mixed-used development in Boston.
“There is still a long way to go,” said Liu Huimin, vice-president of China Life, during a reception on Wednesday in the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Plaza.
Liu also gave the latest numbers on the company’s overseas investments: $4.4 billion, less than 1 percent of its total $466 billion in assets. With the ceiling set by industry regulators at 15 percent, meaning China Life still had much leeway.
Liu called its US representative office, located in midtown Manhattan, “China Life’s front desk in the US”.
“It’s our commitment to wider and deeper involvement in the international market, to strengthen our cooperation with our partners in the US,” he told the audience.
Other Chinese insurance companies are investing in the US and Europe, including Ping An and Anbang, which bought the Waldorf Astoria hotel for $1.95 billion in 2014.
“It is an obvious choice for them, given the sharp volatility of the domestic A-share market and the depreciation pressure on the yuan,” said Grant Ji, executive director of capital markets for northern China at CBRE Group.
Company officials and guests celebrate the opening of the China Life US Representative Office on Wednesday at the Rainbow Room in New York.