Anbang Group Appears to Obfuscate its Role (via Possible Shell Company) behind the Acquisition of Canada‘۪s InnVest Real Estate Trust

On May 10, 2016, the Hong Kong-based Bluesky Hotels & Resorts acquired Canadian InnVest Real Estate Investment Trust, a fund that holds a portfolio of 109 hotels in Canada, for $1.6 billion.  Bluesky‘s bid was preceded by the mysterious withdrawal of China‘s Anbang Insurance Group, despite having negotiating over several weeks on a bid to acquire the fund.  As it turns out, however, there are a number of factors that observers have pointed out, indicating that Bluesky may, indeed, be a shell company acting as a proxy for Anbang.

  • Bluesky was only incorporated on April 18, 2016, less than a month prior to the InnVest acquisition, which was finalized on May 10, 2016.
  • The identities of the Hong Kong investors backing BlueSky remain unclear. 
  • The lead negotiator for Anbang Group, Lydia Chen, recommended Bluesky as an alternative bidder and eventually conducted negotiations on their behalf without any formal indication of employment by the new firm. 
  • Ms. Chen offered InnVest a deposit of $100 million as compensation, if the BlueSky deal failed.
  • The firm‘s directors are listed as Xing Zhang and Li Chen, whom sources speculate is, in fact, Lydia Chen.
  • The addresses of the company‘s Directors are only traceable to the company‘s Toronto-based law firm, McCarthy Tetrault.

The Anbang Insurance Group has recently gained significant attention internationally for recent bids and acquisitions concerning high profile foreign assets.  The firm is also known for its complicated corporate structure that consists of 39 anonymous shareholders and several holding companies dispersed across China.

Both InnVest and BlueSky deny any links that connect the latter to Anbang Group.  InnVest Real Estate Investment Trust controls properties managed by Marriott International, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Canada and Hyatt Hotel Corporation.  BlueSky paid a 37% premium over the average trading price over the 30 days ending May 10.