China Firms Said to Seek Approval to Pursue Starwood Hotels Bid

  • HNA, Jin Jiang, sovereign fund interested in Westin owner
  • Chinese authorities plan to pick one bidder to proceed

At least three Chinese suitors are seeking permission to pursue a bid for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., owner of the Westin hotel brand, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

HNA Group Co., hotelier Jin Jiang International (Holdings) Co. and sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp. have each applied to the Chinese government for approval to proceed with offers for all or part of Starwood, the person said. Regulators will likely pick one bidder to proceed in the process, or may ask multiple companies to join together in a consortium, according to the person, who asked not to be identified as the information is private. 

Chinese investors have flocked to U.S. real estate, from trophy properties to new developments. In February, China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co. bought New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel for $1.95 billion in the largest-ever purchase of a U.S. hotel.

The Chinese authorities are still reviewing the applications, and there’s no certainty any of the companies will be allowed to proceed, according to the person. They are weighing Starwood’s valuation as well as the potential political risks of a Chinese bid, the person said. 

Carrie Bloom, a spokeswoman for Stamford, Connecticut-based Starwood, and a representative for HNA declined to comment. CIC’s Beijing-based press office didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment, while a representative for Jin Jiang said he couldn’t immediately comment. The Wall Street Journal reported the Chinese companies’ interest earlier, citing unidentified people.

Starwood, whose brands also include W and St. Regis, announced in April that it was exploring strategic options including a possible sale. The company, led by interim Chief Executive Officer Adam Aron after the resignation of longtime head Frits van Paasschen in February, had been lagging behind competitors such as Marriott International Inc. and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. in expanding the number of hotels carrying its brands.

— With assistance by Jonathan Browning, Vinicy Chan, and Steven Yang

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