China International Fund, the little-known Hong Kong-registered company whose $7 billion minerals-and-infrastructure deal with Guinea last month grabbed headlines, has drawn scrutiny for its connections with a Chinese government-owned entity. But the Hong Kong company’s parent also has noteworthy ties elsewhere.
One connection involves Israeli diamond billionaire Lev Leviev and some prime New York real estate.
The majority owner of CIF is New Bright International Development, which also owns 70% of a joint venture with Sonangol, the Angolan national oil company.
The joint venture, which is called China Sonangol International Holdings, started talks about a year ago to buy about $710 million of Manhattan property owned by Leviev, according to a report by the U.S. Economic and Security Review Commission (PDF here).
Leviev, who has been negotiating recently to restructure his debts, manages some of his holdings through a company called AFI USA. Richard Marin, chief executive of AFI USA, said the only Manhattan real-estate transaction the company completed with China Sonangol was the $150 million purchase of the J.P. Morgan building at 23 Wall Street.
Talks over the New York Times building and the Clock Tower building didn’t advance, Marin said.
Meanwhile, Leviev and one of his companies at some point became a significant shareholder in a China Sonangol subsidiary listed in Hong Kong called China Sonangol Resources Enterprise Ltd. According to LionShares, Leviev owns 0.13% of China Sonangol Resources Enterprise, and his Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. owns 5.88% of the company.
The U.S. Economic and Security Review Commission report, and another broader report by London think tank Chatham House, detail an extended web of relationships for CIF, its principals and related companies.
Whatever else these relationships show, it’s clear that that CIF and its network are much bigger players in international business than their previous public obscurity might have suggested.