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Genworth's would-be buyer helped build modern China

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Lu Zhiqiang, the head of the Beijing-based company that has agreed to pay cash for Genworth Financial, has had decades of experience with complicated projects that involve delicate negotiations with government officials.

Related: China Oceanwide agrees to pay $2.7 billion for Genworth

Securities analysts on a conference call Monday asked executives from Richmond, Virginia-based Genworth Financial about how they would get a major component of the deal approved by Delaware insurance regulators.

Lu, the chairman of China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co. Ltd., has gotten big real-estate development deals approved by the government of China.

Lu is a member of the standing committee of the 12th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The consultative conference, which advises the government of China on policy, has no current ability to pass legislation but it has great prestige, and it has been described as being the Chinese equivalent of the U.S. Senate.

Lu is also vice president of the China Non-Governmental Chamber of Commerce.

Forbes listed him as the 17th richest person in China in 2015, with about $5.9 billion in net worth. That’s up from an estimate of $146 million in net worth published by the South China Morning Post in 2000.

Lu was born in China’s Shandong province in 1952. He got his start as a technician in a diesel engine factory.

He left the government sector and started his own company in 1985. Shortly after, the leaders of China opened up to the idea of allowing the operation of large commercial businesses. Originally, he focused on education and training. He moved into real estate in 1988, according to a Hong Kong-based publication, Week in China.

His companies have developed big, high-profile projects in China, including Glory China Centre, a complex in Beijing.

In 2009, he bought a 29 percent stake in the Beijing-based Legend Group Ltd., the parent of computer maker Lenovo. One major challenge at Legend was dealing with problems, such as restrictions on long-term incentive plans and a mandatory retirement age of just 60, left over from the group’s origins as a government-owned company, according to interviews Lu gave at the time.

At that time, reporters were questioning how much cash Lu really had. Lu told reporters at Caixin Online and other publications that he had increased his cash reserves by selling interests in a banking company and a securities company.

China Oceanwide expands real estate and insurance operations

In recent years, China Oceanwide has become a player in the U.S. real estate market.

In 2015, the company paid $296 million for 50 First Street in San Francisco. The company is getting ready to break ground for two mixed-use skyscrapers there.

In Oahu, Hawaii, a China Oceanwide affiliate recently bought two oceanfront parcels near Aulani, a Disney resort. The company is working with another company that wants to build an Atlantis Resort complex there.

In New York City, the company paid the Dallas-based Howard Hughes Corp. $390 million for two adjacent parcels, with addresses at 80 South St. and 163 Front St., a few blocks from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York building, according to The company has filed plans that could let it build one of the tallest towers in New York on the property. 

China Oceanwide has also been investing in the insurance and reinsurance markets in Asia. In 2015, it began the process of acquiring control of the Minan Property and Casualty Insurance Co. of Shenzhen China. It renamed the company Asia Pacific Property & Casualty Insurance Co. Ltd. earlier this year.

Asia Pacific P&C says on its section of the China Oceanwide website that it has 2 billion yuan in capital, or the equivalent of $300 million in capital, and intends to increase its capital level to about $1.5 billion. The company writes short-term health insurance and accident insurance as well as property damage insurance, liability insurance, credit insurance and guarantee insurance.

The company, which was established in 2005, provides travel insurance for Air Asia customers.

Now Health International, a Hong Kong-based international health insurance broker, sells health insurance from Asia Pacific P&C. Now Health says Asia Pacific P&C has a health insurance customer service office in Shanghai and other offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and the United Kingdom.

Asia Pacific P&C gets 24-hour emergency help and information services for its policyholders from AXA, according to Now Health. AXA is based in Paris.


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