SHANGHAI May 3 A war of words is brewing in
China between a highly acquisitive insurer and a leading
business journal, a rare public clash amid growing pressure on
firms to improve governance and transparency.
Anbang Insurance Group Co Ltd said in an open
letter published online on Wednesday it would take legal action
against business publication Caixin and one of its reporters
over what it called "malicious" and "inaccurate" reports driven
by commercial aims.
A Caixin report published on April 29 said Anbang's
ownership structure was "opaque" and that its funding was a
"maze" of capital flow involving more than 100 firms.
Anbang's open letter to Caixin publisher Hu Shuli was the
second notice in four days published by the insurer threatening
the publication with a lawsuit.
Anbang, which rose to international prominence through its
purchase of New York's landmark Waldorf Astoria hotel in 2015,
also accused Caixin of publishing a series of malicious reports
against the company and conducting personal attacks on Anbang
Chairman Wu Xiaohui. Wednesday's letter also threatened to sue
in Canada the author of Caixin's most recent report.
Caixin declined to comment on Wednesday. Caixin has said
Anbang's allegations are groundless and that it could take legal
action itself against the insurer.
Anbang, which is owned by a series of privately-held
companies, did not comment beyond the open letter.
China's financial and corporate regulators have yet to
comment directly on the growing spat between the two firms.
While public spats between Chinese media and corporations
are not unheard of, the case is unusual because of the
high-profile nature of both parties, risk consultants said.
"Caixin in China is like The Economist or the Wall Street
Journal in the United States. There's no more well-respected
business publication and people take it very seriously," said
Andrew Gilholm, director of analysis for China and North Asia at
risk consultancy Control Risks.
He said Anbang was on par with global insurers like American
International Group Inc (AIG) in terms of scale.
The New York Times reported last year about the Chinese
company's complex structure and networks.
"Most Chinese hadn't heard of it 5-10 years ago, but it's
probably now, along with Dalian Wanda and HNA Group, among the
top Chinese firms making headlines worldwide," Gilholm said.
In March, Kushner Companies, the real estate firm headed by
U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law until recently, said it
ended talks to redevelop its flagship New York office tower with
Established in 2004, Anbang burst onto the global scene by
signing more than $30 billion worth of corporate deals in the
last two-and-a-half years.
(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Randy Fabi)