Fosun Determined to Buy Phoenix, Chairman Says

Chinese company’s chairman hints at other Israeli investments, too.

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Billionaire Guo Guangchang, chairman and chief executive officer of Fosun Group.
Billionaire Guo Guangchang, chairman and chief executive officer of Fosun Group. Credit: Bloomberg

Guo Guangchang, whose Fosun Group’s planned acquisition of Israel’s Phoenix insurance has been shadowed by a Chinese police investigation, said on Tuesday he planned to go ahead with the deal and would be visiting Israel soon to move it forward.

Fosun will also be setting up an Israel office to expand its investments in the country, Guo, the self-styled student of investor Warren Buffett, told an Israeli investment conference in Beijing that attracted some 2,000 Chinese investors.

The conference was his first major public appearance since Fosun reported four weeks ago that it had lost contact with its chairman, sparking investor concern over the company, one of China’s most aggressive global dealmakers with stakes in French resort chain Club Med and Britain’s Thomas Cook Group.

Guo emerged a few days later and the company said he had been helping police with an investigation that mostly concerned his “personal affairs.” He has since reportedly traveled to the United States, indicating that police are not restricting his movement.

Despite Guo’s remarks, which he made in a question and answer session with Economy Ministry director general Amit Lang, the prospects of the Fosun-Phoenix deal being completed look increasingly poor. Dorit Salinger, director of the treasury’s capital market, insurance and savings division, is unlikely to grant Fosun an insurance license given the ongoing investigation.

Delek, one of Israel’s leading conglomerates, in June agreed to sell its 52.31 percent stake in Phoenix to Fosun for 1.8 billion shekels ($467 million).

The investment conference has been a huge success, said Israel’s Economy Ministry, which organized the event, with attendance four times the 500 Chinese investors expected. Ziva Eger, the ministry’s head of foreign investment, said more than 1,000 meetings took place over two days between Chinese investors and 100 Israeli companies and 20 venture capital funds.

Among the companies in attendance is Microlink, which is in talks to buy a controlling stake from IDB group in Clal insurance, Israel’s second-biggest insurer.

Lang said the big turnout was especially impressive given the stock market drop this week in China that has raised concerns about the future of the economy. Lang said Chinese investors were not only attracted by Israeli technology – particularly Internet of Things, manufacturing technology and agrotech – but see Israel as a bridge for investment in the U.S and Europe.

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