Cedar Who? When Obscure Chinese Buyers Eye Famous Targets

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When it comes to obscure Chinese companies pouncing on high-profile foreign targets, Noble Group Ltd. suitor Cedar Holdings can point to a long line of illustrious predecessors.

Take the example of Anbang Insurance Group Co., which was a company best known for its fledgling auto insurance business when it came out of nowhere to acquire New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel in 2014. Or the Chinese peroxide producer that bought the developer of the Talking Tom app which features a talking digital cat.

Here are some past examples of firms that made a splash with large overseas deals:

Anbang Insurance Group New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotelCompleted
Chongqing Casin Enterprise Group and other buyersChicago Stock ExchangePending
China Energy Reserve & Chemicals Group The Center in Hong KongAgreement signed November 2017
Anhui Xinke New Materials Voltage Pictures, producer of Oscar-winning film ‘The Hurt Locker’Canceled December 2016
Zhejiang Jinke Entertainment Culture Outfit7, maker of Talking Tom Acquisition of controlling stake completed, with the remainder to be bought at a future date
New China Capital Legend fundLouis Dreyfus’s global metals businessExpected to close in first half of this year

Sources: Company filings, Bloomberg

Billionaire Li Ka-shing in November agreed to sell control of a Hong Kong tower known as The Center for $5.2 billion to a group led by state-owned China Energy Reserve & Chemicals Group -- not exactly a well-known acquirer of trophy real estate assets. In 2016, a Chinese copper-wire manufacturer said it would take over a Hollywood movie studio. And then there were the bidders for the Chicago Stock Exchange, including a real estate developer in western China called Chongqing Casin Enterprise Group Co.

Cedar Holdings has expressed interest in buying control of commodities trader Noble Group, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Cedar Holdings, which traces its roots to a real estate company started in 1997, says on its website that its businesses include chemicals, tourism, property and finance. The company also lists a commodities supply-chain management business as one of its units.

The interest from Cedar Holdings signals that there’s no dearth of appetite from Chinese buyers even as regulators have cracked down on overseas dealmaking by domestic firms such as Anbang and HNA Group Co. Cross-border acquisitions by Chinese companies have dropped to $173 billion in the past 12 months, down 25 percent from the year-earlier period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

— With assistance by Timothy Sifert, Bei Hu, Dingmin Zhang, Vinicy Chan, and Emma Dong

(Updates with status, additional deal in table.)
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