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Chinese firm buys Hilton's Waldorf Astoria for US$1.95b

[NEW YORK] A Chinese insurance company has bought Hilton's landmark New York luxury hotel the Waldorf Astoria for US$1.95 billion, the US hotel giant said Monday.

Anbang Insurance Group has agreed "to restore the property to its historic grandeur" and will allow Hilton to manage the property for the next 100 years, Hilton Worldwide Holdings said.

The Waldorf Astoria New York, the grand Art Deco hotel on Park Avenue that occupies a full city block in midtown Manhattan, has been in business for more than a century.

In 1993, the hotel was declared an official New York City landmark, joining the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Conrad Hilton, Hilton Worldwide's founder, who bought the management rights to the hotel in 1949, called it "the greatest of them all." "We are very excited to be entering into this long-term relationship with Anbang, which will ensure that the Waldorf Astoria New York represents the brand's world-class standards for generations to come," said Christopher Nassetta, president and chief executive of Hilton Worldwide, in a statement.

Anbang is based in Beijing and has more than 30,000 employees. The insurer also owns Chengdu Rural Commercial Bank and Anbang Asset Management Company.

The glamorous 47-story hotel has been a magnet for world leaders, celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe who lived in a US$1,000-per-week suite, and top entertainers such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.

The State Department has long held a suite at the Waldorf for the US ambassador to the United Nations, a department spokesman confirmed Monday.

The New York hotel is the flagship of Hilton's luxury brand Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, launched in 2006, which now spans 27 destinations, including Beijing, Shanghai, Amsterdam and Dubai.

Nine additional Waldorf Astoria hotels are planned, with destinations such as Bali, Bangkok and Beverly Hills, the company said.

Hilton Worldwide said it would use the sale proceeds to buy additional hotel assets in the United States. The company did not provide details of its acquisition strategy.

Hilton has a portfolio of 11 global brands, with operations in 93 countries.

Hilton shares fell 0.5 per cent, closing at US$24.21 on the New York Stock Exchange. - AFP