SHANGHAI Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd (0656.HK) reassured investors on Wednesday that it has enough cash on hand to fund the 1 billion euro ($1.35 billion) purchase of the insurance arm of a Portuguese state bank and it will continue to buy foreign assets to expand its overseas reach.
Rating agency Moody's Investors Service has put Fosun's debt under review for a possible downgrade, citing uncertainties over its funding plan for the purchase of the insurance unit of Caixa Geral de Depositos SA CGDES.UL which comes after a series of investments last year.
Liang Xinjun, chief executive of Fosun, declined to disclose its funding plan for the deal, but said the company has enough cash on hand to pay for it.
"Our own balance sheet is fully capable of paying for it, but we will also consider other funding channels," he told Reuters in an interview, adding the firm saw strong growth in profit last year which will help its balance sheet. The 2013 financial results have not yet been published.
Fosun had 20 billion yuan ($3.31 billion) in cash as of 2012 and 10 billion yuan of securities assets which it could sell if needed, Liang said.
Liang was speaking after announcing a plan to launch a real estate joint venture with Prudential Financial Inc (PRU.N) which will target urban projects in China. The companies did not give a size for their investment, but said without elaborating that they also expect to work together on real estate projects outside of China.
The real estate venture is the latest move by Fosun which is aiming to become a Chinese version of Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) by using insurance investments as a base to fund long-term investments in larger companies.
Fosun's chairman, Guo Guangchang, said the Prudential deal "marks a solid step for Fosun to develop Warren Buffet's model.
Co-founded by Guo, Liang and two classmates from Shanghai's prestigious Fudan University in 1992 with capital of just $4,000, Fosun initially set up as a market research firm. It then moved into the pharmaceutical business in 1997 before expanding further into areas like steel, retail, mining and insurance. Both Guo and Liang are ranked among China's top billionaires, according to Forbes.
Fosun, which is headquartered in Shanghai, is currently bidding to acquire French resort company Club Mediterranee SA CMIP.PA, after paying $725 million for One Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York last year. It also obtained a 9.5 percent stake in Greece's largest jewellery retailer Folli Follie (HDFr.AT) in 2011.
Liang said Fosun will continue to buy overseas assets in sectors such as retail, entertainment and finance to be brought over to the Chinese market.
"In the future, while continuing our investment on luxury brands, we will also consider brands of experimental consumption and retail financing," he said.
Fosun also holds stakes in China's Yongan Property Insurance Co, Hong Kong-based Peak Reinsurance Co, and has formed a private equity venture with U.S. buyout firm the Carlyle Group
(Reporting by Kazunori Takada; Editing by Matt Driskill)