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Genworth-Oceanwide still want to close deal

By Paul Welitzkin in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-01-05 23:28

Genworth Financial Inc and China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co Ltd said on Thursday that they intend to pursue their proposed tie-up and will work to address concerns of a US national security panel.

Genworth and Oceanwide are working to amend the proposed transaction in hopes of winning approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US or CFIUS, an interagency group that assesses the national security impact of foreign purchases of a US business.

In 2016, Oceanwide, a Chinese investment company best known for its US commercial real estate projects, agreed to acquire insurer Genworth in a deal then valued at about $2.7 billion.

On Tuesday, 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.

That is the same issue that is holding up the Oceanwide-Genworth deal, according to Tom McInerney, president and CEO of Genworth.

"We believe further protecting the personal information of our US customers makes our overall mitigation plan more robust than our previous CFIUS filings and expect to file our new mitigation plan in the near term, as soon as the key terms of the additional mitigation approach are finalized," McInerney said Thursday in a statement.

The CFIUS decision in the Ant-MoneyGram transaction drew some concern that the US was toughening its review of foreign purchases, especially from the Chinese. Last year members of Congress were working on various options that would strengthen the authority of CFIUS.

However, Ted Moran of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and Georgetown University in Washington doesn't believe the Ant-MoneyGram rejection necessarily signals a new trend from CFIUS.

"The CFIUS rejection is focused on protecting the privacy of personal data and the failure of the participants to mitigate this concern. This concern predates the Trump administration. There is no reason to think that this rejection will set a new tone or new precedent with regard to other Chinese acquisitions," he wrote in an email.

Sophie Meunier of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University said in an email that the election of Donald Trump as US president in 2016 has heightened American rhetoric about "the dangers of Chinese investment and accelerated a potential reform of the CFIUS process".

"The increased restrictiveness of the FDI (foreign direct investment) review process is happening in parallel with similar efforts in Europe to create an EU-wide mechanism to block foreign takeovers under certain circumstances. Europe, however, is divided internally between the various member states over how to handle foreign (and especially Chinese) investment. At this point, it is politically easier for Chinese companies to invest in the EU than in the US," she said.

On the Genworth-Oceanwide transaction, Lu Zhiqiang, chairman of Oceanwide, said in a statement on Thursday, "We remain committed to our transaction with Genworth and look forward to building Genworth's businesses in the US while at the same time bringing Genworth's expertise in long term care and mortgage insurance to China."

In addition to clearance by CFIUS, the proposed transaction remains subject to regulatory approvals pending in Delaware and New York, as well as regulatory reviews in China and other international jurisdictions.

paulwelitzkin@chinadailyusa.com

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