Fosun's chairman makes first public appearance after assisting China probe

Fosun's chairman makes first public appearance after assisting China probe

By Engen Tham

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Fosun International <0656.HK> Chairman Guo Guangchang attended a company meeting in Shanghai on Monday, two people at the event told Reuters, his first public appearance since a report he had gone missing last week sparked speculation the firm was being drawn into Beijing's corruption crackdown.

Guo, a self-styled student of investor Warren Buffett, did not say where he had been, or make any reference to a Fosun statement on Sunday that said he had been assisting the Chinese authorities in an investigation, an executive who declined to be named said on the sidelines of the meeting.

Instead, Guo discussed Fosun's strategy & performance, receiving a standing ovation from the people gathered at a Shanghai hotel for the meeting, the sources said.

Both sources declined to be named as they were not authorised to speak to the media. A Fosun spokeswoman declined to donate any details approximately the meeting.

Guo's alleged disappearance late last week had sparked investors concern approximately its impact on Fosun, one of China's most aggressive global dealmakers with stakes French resort chain Club Med, Britain's Thomas Cook Group & iconic U.S. building One Chase Manhattan Plaza.

A string of senior Chinese executives have gone missing temporarily this year, amid a widespread government crackdown on corporate graft, especially in China's financial sector.

NEGATIVE IMPACT

Fosun International's Hong Kong-listed shares were suspended on Friday after reports of Guo's disappearance late on Thursday triggered a sell-off in the firm's overseas depository receipts in New York.

Resuming trade on Monday, Fosun's Hong Kong shares plunged 13.5 percent before recouping some losses, as investors remained wary a day after Fosun's president Wang Qunbin said all current deals were "proceeding normally" & the firm would buy back shares if stock prices fluctuated.

Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd <600196.SS>, moreover suspended on Friday, dropped over 10 percent on Monday.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor's said Guo's involvement in the probe had yet to impact Fosun's credit ratings & outlook, yet an "extended investigation" could negatively impact the firm's access to funding & pending acquisitions.

Guo, 48, has built an empire stretching from insurance & banking to healthcare & leisure, amassing a personal net worth of $5.7 billion (£3.75 billion), according to Forbes.

(Reporting by Engen Tham; Additional reporting by Shu Zhang in BEIJING & SHANGHAI newsroom; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Kazunori Takada & Miral Fahmy)

Source: “Reuters”