Banking & Finance

US Government Panel OKs Genworth Sale to China's Oceanwide Group

The U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) on Saturday approved the sale of Genworth Financial Inc. (NYSE: GNW) to China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co. for $2.7 billion. Genworth is a Virginia-based insurance holding company operating in mortgage and long-term care insurance in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

The committee’s ruling still requires the president’s approval and, while that may be more difficult to obtain, investors have pushed shares to a gain of more than 25% in early trading Monday. With the Trump administration’s increasingly tough stance against Chinese acquisitions of U.S. firms, additional regulatory reviews and final approval of the deal is far from complete.

The takeover deal was first announced in October 2016 and CFIUS has been reviewing it ever since. A major concern was what steps Oceanwide would take to protect the personal information of its U.S. policyholders.

In a joint statement issued Saturday, Genworth and Oceanwide said the two firms have entered into a mitigation agreement that, among other things, “requires Genworth to use a U.S.-based, third-party service provider to manage and protect the personal data of Genworth’s U.S. policyholders.”

In addition to Trump’s approval, the deal must still be approved by regulators in the United States, China, and “other international jurisdictions.”

Genworth lost about $2 billion on its long-term care business several years ago and has struggled to recover. Low interest rates resulting from the financial crisis coupled with people living and holding onto their policies much longer than expected battered the company’s bottom line.

Policyholders have been hit with sharp premium rate hikes. According to a report earlier this year in The Wall Street Journal many of the 7.3 million Americans who own long-term care policies have had to make the hard choice between paying the much higher premiums or abandoning the coverage.

Genworth’s stock traded up about 26.5% an hour after markets opened Monday at $4.82 in a 52-week range of $2.66 to $4.92. The high was posted earlier this morning. At its height in 2007, Genworth stock traded above $36 a share.

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