How the U.S. government could muck up the Waldorf Astoria deal

The sale of the Waldorf Astoria by Hilton Worldwide Holdings in October to China's Anbang Insurance Group for $1.95 billion has dominated the headlines for weeks now, not only for the hefty price tag (it's the most ever paid for a single property), but for who the buyer is. Namely, a company based in China, which has a long-standing frosty relationship with the U.S. in regard to security and espionage.

The acquisition of a prominent U.S. asset by a Chinese company is now adding to this—and prompting the U.S> government to take a harder look at the deal. Something Blackstone Group, still majority stockholder of Hilton, can't be too happy with.

So writes The New York Post, which today reports that Steve Schwarzman, head of Blackstone, is eager to close the sale, as "U.S. officials dither over whether to launch a review to assess the potential security risks."

Word is Schwarzman is looking to speed things up and may even ask the U.S. government to move forward with an investigation. "The firm can file its own request for a review rather than wait for officials to act," a source told The New York Post.

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However, there is little chance hat the deal will be stopped. The source told The Post that Blackstone is "very confident."

The deal was able to be consummated after China relaxed its rules regarding how much Chinese insurance companies could invest overseas—increasing the threshold.

As The Post tells it, citing sources the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is split over whether the pending sale of the hotel, home to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and where the U.S. president often stays on trips to New York, poses any potential spying threat.

The Post writes: "When it comes to the Waldorf, the underlying concern is that the Chinese will spy on a hotel where world leaders are known to hold top-secret discussions and much of the UN’s business gets done."

"Blackstone argues that the President stays in foreign hotels when he travels and his security detail sweeps rooms for bugs regardless of the hotel owner."

The deal is expected to close on December 31, although the companies can agree to extend to March 31, barring any U.S. government intervention.

Regardless of if/when the deal goes through, check out this article, which discusses if it was a good buy and compares it against other recent luxury trophy acquisitions.

 

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