CHINA'S Anbang Insurance Group Co has abandoned its US$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 goal to create the world's largest lodging company, with about 5,700 hotels, against Anbang's aim to build a vast array of US real estate assets. It also represents a blow to Chinese companies' growing ambitions to acquire US assets.

Anbang's acquisition of Starwood would have been the largest takeover of a US 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 JC Flowers & Co and Primavera Capital Ltd.

Anbang did not offer Starwood a reason for not following through on its raised offer of March 26, according to people familiar with the matter. They asked not to be identified disclosing confidential discussions.

"The reason of withdrawal is simple — Anbang isn't interested in a protracted bidding war," Fred Hu, chairman of Primavera, said in an e-mail.

It was not immediately clear if Marriott had been planning a counterbid to Anbang's March 26 offer. Anbang has previously bowed out of smaller deals, but this is the most high-profile deal it has abandoned, people familiar with the matter said.

Starwood said on Monday that Anbang had raised its offer to almost US$14 billion. Anbang had been expected to firm up that non-binding offer.

(Source: Agencies)

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