Exclusive: Anbang hires proxy solicitor for Starwood bid - sources

Thu Mar 17, 2016 1:52pm EDT
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By Mike Stone and Michael Flaherty

(Reuters) - China's Anbang Insurance Group Co has hired a proxy solicitation firm to advise it on how Starwood Hotels & Resorts Inc HOT.N shareholders view its $12.8 billion acquisition offer and prepare its next steps, people familiar with the matter said.

While Starwood has yet to make a decision on whether to reject or further pursue the non-binding offer, Anbang's move underscores its determination to disrupt Starwood's merger agreement with Marriott International Inc (MAR.O: Quote).

Chinese companies are averse to going hostile with their offers for U.S. companies given the political and regulatory roadblocks their proposed deals can face, and there is no indication that Anbang plans to challenge Starwood's board of directors at this stage, the people said this week.

Anbang has hired proxy solicitation firm Georgeson Inc, which has already started to contact Starwood shareholders, the sources said. Anbang will decide on its next move based on Starwood's response to its offer, the sources said.

The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential.

Anbang declined to comment. Representatives of Starwood, Marriott and Georgeson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Starwood has said it received a waiver from Marriott that allows it to engage in discussions with Anbang and its consortium. The waiver expires at midnight on Thursday but could be extended.

Marriott's cash and stock acquisition agreement, inked in November, currently values Starwood at $67.79 per share. Anbang's consortium, which also comprises private equity firms J.C. Flowers & Co and Primavera Capital Group, has offered $76 per share in cash.   Continued...

The Westin Lombard Yorktown Center, a hotel of the Starwood chain, is pictured in Lombard, Illinois July 24, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes