China’s Fosun Buys 80% of Caixa’s Insurer for $1.36 Billion

Jan 10, 2014 5:46 am ET

(Adds Fosun comment in third paragraph, adviser in fifth.)

Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- China’s Fosun International Ltd. bought 80 percent of Portugal’s Caixa Geral de Depositos SA’s insurance unit for 1 billion euros ($1.36 billion), beating out U.S. buyout firm Apollo Management International LLP.

Fosun International will buy the stake in the insurer with its own funds, Secretary of State for Finance Manuel Rodrigues told reporters in Lisbon yesterday.

“Fosun has long been striving to become an insurance- oriented investment group with comprehensive financial capabilities,” the Shanghai-based company said in a statement. “Portugal is a highly attractive key market and matches well with Fosun’s global expansion strategy.”

Portugal is selling the company as a condition for a 78 billion-euro European Union bailout, which requires the government to dispose of assets and raise revenue. Fosun International, the investment arm of China’s biggest closely held industrial group, is seeking to diversify its holdings overseas and won the approval in July to buy French resort operator Club Mediterranee SA with Axa Private Equity, which has since been spun off from AXA SA and is now called Ardian.

Morgan Stanley was Fosun’s financial adviser for the Portuguese deal.

Fosun International has an insurance venture with U.S. life insurer Prudential Financial Inc. and operates Peak Reinsurance in Hong Kong. It also owns a stake in Greek duty-free store operator and jewelery maker Folli Follie.

New York Building

Chairman and billionaire Guo Guangchang said in an interview in New York last month that he is seeking to expand the company’s U.S. commercial real estate investments after the acquisition of New York’s 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza.

“This marks a solid step for Fosun to evolve into Warren Buffett’s model,” he said in today’s statement.

Fosun International shares rose 5 percent to HK$7.61 in Hong Kong trading.

The company bought the 2.2 million-square-foot (204,000- square-meter) Chase Manhattan tower for $725 million in October. It is the biggest purchase of a New York building ever by a Chinese company, and caps a year in which Chinese investors made some of the city’s most high-profile real estate deals.

Portuguese Purchases

Chinese bidders have invested in other Portuguese companies. Portugal in December 2011 agreed to sell a 21 percent stake in utility EDP-Energias de Portugal SA to China Three Gorges Corp. for 2.69 billion euros. In February 2012, Portugal agreed to sell 40 percent of REN-Redes Energeticas Nacionais SA, Portugal’s power and gas grid operator, for 592 million euros to State Grid International of China and Oman Oil Co.

In November 2011, refiner China Petrochemical Corp., known as Sinopec Group, agreed to buy 30 percent of the Brazilian unit of Galp Energia SGPS SA, Portugal’s biggest oil company.

Portugal has raised 8.1 billion euros from asset sales, Rodrigues said.

Last month, Portugal also sold the nation’s postal service CTT-Correios de Portugal in the first IPO since 2008, after completing the sale of airport operator ANA-Aeroportos de Portugal SA to Vinci SA in September for 3 billion euros.

--With assistance from Bonnie Cao in Shanghai. Editors: Frank Connelly, Jon Menon