One of China’s most high-profile investment bankers, Bao Fan, has gone missing, amid speculation he has been taken into custody.
China Renaissance Holdings, the investment bank that Bao founded, said in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Thursday it has not been able to contact the billionaire.
Bao, who oversaw mergers involving tech giants Didi and Meituan, has not shown up at his office and has been unreachable for two days, according to Caixin, the China-based financial news outlet.
Caixin reported on Thursday that Cong Lin, China Renaissance’s president, has been under investigation by authorities for months.
There have also been reports that Bao’s family has been told he is assisting an investigation.
China Renaissance shares plunge
China Renaissance saw its shares plummet by as much as 50% on Friday after the boutique investment bank said it is unable to contact Bao, who is the bank’s chairman and chief executive.
His disappearance is the latest in a series of high-profile Chinese executives going missing with little explanation, during an anti-corruption drive spearheaded by President Xi Jinping.
In 2015 alone, at least five executives became unreachable without prior notice to their companies, including Fosun Group chairman Guo Guangchang, who Fosun later said was assisting with investigations regarding a personal matter.
“The board is not aware of any information that indicates that Mr Bao’s unavailability is or might be related to the business and or operations of the Group which is continuing normally,” the mainland China-based bank said in a filing late on Thursday.
China Renaissance stock slid by 50% in early trade to hit a record low of HK$5, wiping off HK$2.8 billion in market value. It regained some ground to be off by 29%. More than 19 million China Renaissance shares had changed hands before the close of trading, the highest on record.
A China Renaissance spokesman referred a request for comment on Friday to the investment bank’s public filing.
Well-connected dealmaker, IPO adviser
Bao, a well-known dealmaker, is China Renaissance’s founder and controlling shareholder, having previously worked at Credit Suisse Group and Morgan Stanley.
He has been described as one of China’s best-connected bankers and has worked on major technology mergers including the tie-up of ride-hailing champions Didi and Kuaidi, food delivery giants Meituan and Dianping and travel devices platforms Ctrip and Qunar.
Bao started China Renaissance in 2005 and listed it in Hong Kong in 2018 after raising $346 million. It has acted as adviser for some of China’s biggest tech initial public offerings (IPOs) including those of JD.Com and Kuaishou Technology as well as Didi’s New York listing in 2021.
China Renaissance is also an active investor in the tech sector. In 2019, it raised more than 6.5 billion yuan ($945 million) in a yuan-denominated fund.
Bao’s disappearance comes days after property developer Seazen Group Ltd said it was unable to contact or reach its vice-chairman.
Alibaba Group Holding founder Jack Ma’s long absence from public view after authorities called off the IPO of his Ant Group led to speculation over his whereabouts. Alibaba has never reported Ma unreachable and media outlets have reported him travelling in Europe, Japan and Hong Kong.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard