UPDATE 7-China's Anbang abandons $14 billion bid to buy Starwood Hotels
* Anbang surprisingly bows out of bidding race
* Anbang dropped out to avoid long bidding war - Primavera's Hu
* China media Caixin said regulator would likely reject Anbang bid (Adds that Anbang has previously walked away from transactions)
By Greg Roumeliotis and Matthew Miller
March 31 (Reuters) - China's Anbang Insurance Group Co said on Thursday it has abandoned its $14 billion bid for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc, paving the way for Marriott International Inc to buy the Sheraton and Westin hotels operator.
The surprise withdrawal marks an anticlimactic end to a bidding war that had pitted Marriott's ambitions to create the world's largest lodging company, with about 5,700 hotels, against Anbang's drive to create a vast portfolio of U.S. real estate assets.
It also represents a blow to corporate China's growing ambitions to acquire U.S. assets. Anbang's acquisition of Starwood would have been the largest takeover of a U.S. company by a Chinese buyer.
"We were attracted to the opportunity presented by Starwood because of its high-quality, leading global hotel brands, which met many of our acquisition criteria, including the ability to generate consistent, long-term returns over time," Anbang said in a statement.
"However, due to various market considerations, the consortium has determined not to proceed further," Anbang added, referring to the joint bid it had put together with private equity firms J.C. Flowers & Co and Primavera Capital Ltd. Continued...