China Merchants Bank sinks by most in 11 years as damage to shareholders snowballs to US$35 billion in two days

·2-min read

China Merchants Bank slumped by the most in more than a decade after the nation’s biggest retail lender removed its top executive without giving a reason. Investors suffering a US$35 billion beating over two days would be asking for an explanation.

The stock tanked 11.5 per cent to HK$52.90 at the close of Tuesday trading in Hong Kong, slicing HK$124.6 billion (US$15.7 billion) from its market capitalisation as trading resumed in the city after a two-day holiday. Tuesday’s losses were the worst since a 12 per cent crash in October 2011, according to Bloomberg data.

The sell-off was triggered by a mainland media report on Monday that an unnamed senior executive was assisting with an unspecified government probe. The board convened a virtual meeting on the same day and voted 15-0 to relieve Tian Huiyu as president and director, according to an exchange filing.

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China Merchants Bank relieves president Tian Huiyu of his job in surprise move after US$11 billion stock sell-off

“Judging from the stock price, liquidity and macroeconomic expectations and sudden events will all affect the short-term stock price trend,” Essence Securities said in a report on Tuesday. “Changes may lead to increased short-term fluctuations” but is likely to have only a small impact on the bank’s fundamentals, it added.

Tian Huiyu, former president of China Merchants Bank. Photo: Handout
Tian Huiyu, former president of China Merchants Bank. Photo: Handout

Such unexplained investigations and boardroom decisions have plagued several Chinese companies in the past, most notably in the aftermath of debt-funded spending spree of HNA Group and Anbang Insurance. They make the local stock market a hotbed for speculation about corruption scandals and political fallouts, while inflicting sudden losses on global investors.

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Losses have snowballed to US$35 billion in Hong Kong and Shanghai over two trading days. The stock retreated 3 per cent in Shanghai, adding to a 71 billion yuan (US$11.2 billion) crash on Monday. Hexun.com, a local financial website, reported about the government probe on Monday, without giving any specifics.

Tian, 56, held the role at the Shenzhen-based bank for nine years before his removal and “reassignment” to another job within the lender. Chief financial officer Wang Liang has been put in charge of the bank, according to the stock exchange filing late Monday.

China Merchants Bank has a market capitalisation of about 1.1 trillion yuan, making it the third-most valuable lender after Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Construction Bank.

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