Anbang sweetens offer for Starwood to $14 billion to trump Marriott
Traders stand by the post where the stock for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc is traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange November 16, 201 Reuters

China's Anbang Insurance Group has launched an improved takeover bid for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc, pitting it against Marriott International in the quest for the US hotel chain.

The bidding war for Starwood heated up when a consortium led by Anbang Insurance gave a non-binding all-cash offer that valued Starwood at $14 billion.

The consortium, which includes private equity firms J.C. Flowers & Co and Primavera Capital Ltd, has offered $82.75 per share, topping the offer of $78 per share made by Marriott on March 21.

Starwood, which had accepted Marriott's $13.6 billion cash-and-stock offer, said it is weighing Anbang's offer.

It said the Anbang consortium's offer was "reasonably likely" to lead to a superior proposal.

A Starwood-Marriott merger would create the world's largest lodging company with about 5,700 hotels. Marriott said in a statement it was "confident that the previously announced amended merger agreement is the best course for both companies."

Shopping spree

Anbang is on a shopping spree in the US, armed with a $254 billion war chest. The Insurance giant said earlier this month it was acquiring another top dollar hotel property in the United States -- Strategic Hotels & Resorts -- for $6.5 billion.

Anbang had completed in 2015 the purchase of New York's storied Waldorf Astoria hotel from Hilton Worldwide Holdings for $1.95 billion.

Privately held Anbang had bought last year US annuities and life insurer Fidelity & Guaranty Life for $1.57 billion.

Anbang, a relatively small Chinese insurance company, punched above its weight to purchase iconic Waldorf Astoria, raising eyebrows in the US. The company was founded in 2004 with capital of $60 million. Its chairman, Wu Xiaohui, is married to the grand-daughter of Deng Xiaoping, the Economist reported.