Prominent Chinese investment bank says its founder is unreachable
Chinese Renaissance statement on Bao Fan follows absences of other high-profile business execs
Shares of the company that operates one of China's top investment banks, China Renaissance, plunged Friday after the firm said it had lost touch with its founder, Bao Fan, one of the country's most high-profile bankers and a top tech-sector dealmaker.
China Renaissance Holdings said in a filing to Hong Kong's stock exchange Thursday that it had been unable to contact Bao, who has worked on major deals including e-commerce company JD.com's $2-billion US initial public offering and the public listing of short video platform Kuaishou in Hong Kong.
The company said it was "not aware of any information that indicates Mr. Bao's unavailability" was related to the business of the group.
Bao earlier worked at Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley. He founded China Renaissance in 2005 and took it public in 2018, raising $346 million US.
His disappearance follows a crackdown on big technology companies in the past two years that officials in China said had been wrapped up.
Asked during a daily news conference on Friday whether the banker had been detained, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said he was not aware of the situation.
Shares in China Renaissance fell by as much as 50 per cent Friday in Hong Kong. They were down about 28 per cent in the afternoon.
"If a listed company voluntarily discloses that a senior manager or a major shareholder cannot be contacted, it's truly unusual, as the person might have been out of reach for some time," said Dickie Wong, executive director of research at Kingston Securities. Investors' fear is that a company's ability to continue operation is impaired, so a stock selloff is not surprising given the uncertainty, Wong added.
Bao's disappearance comes after former China Renaissance president Cong Lin was taken away by Chinese authorities in September last year, according to Chinese news media outlet Caixin, which first reported the news.
Anti-graft investigations in China targeting the financial sector have ensnared dozens of officials and finance executives at institutions such as Everbright Securities, China Construction Bank and major bank ICBC.
Last month, e-commerce billionaire Jack Ma said he would give up control of Ant Group, the leading Chinese financial technology provider he founded. The company is an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, which Ma also founded.
The move followed efforts over the years by the Chinese government to rein in Ma and the country's tech sector more broadly. Two years ago, Ma largely disappeared from view for 2½ months after criticizing China's regulators.
With files from Reuters