‘Missing’ Chinese billionaire is cooperating with authorities, officials say

A top Chinese billionaire tech banker reported missing last week is cooperating with the country’s officials over an investigation, according to his company.

Bao Fan is the founder of China Renaissance Holdings and is a leading dealmaker in China. He is said to be an influential personality in the country, who has worked on major deals that have shaped the online consumer economy.

He was reported missing by his company 11 days ago and had become the latest in a number of China’s executives to have been reported missing in the last few years amid Xi Jinping’s nationwide anti-corruption campaign.

The most high-profile executive to have been reported missing was Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who had remained unreachable in late 2020 after criticising country’s regulatory policies, only to have re-emerged three months later.

The billionaire’s disappearance had triggered rumours that he might have been placed under house arrest or detained.

In a company filing on Sunday, the first announcement from China Renaissance Holdings after it reported Mr Bao’s “unavailability”, it said it had learnt that he was cooperating in an investigation with China’s government officials.

The filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange did not elaborate what the investigation was about.

The company said it had been “trying to locate Mr Bao and ascertain his status” since his disappearance.

“The Board has become aware that Mr Bao is currently cooperating in an investigation being carried out by certain authorities in the People’s Republic of China (‘PRC’),” it said.

Shares of the company slumped last week by as much as 29 per cent after it was disclosed that the company was unable to contact Mr Bao.

“The Board would like to reiterate that the business and operations of the Group are continuing normally,” the company said.

“The Company will duly cooperate and assist with any lawful request from the relevant PRC authorities, if and when made,” it said, adding that it will “make further announcements as and when appropriate”.

According to a Reuters report that cited sources, Chinese authorities took Mr Bao away to provide assistance in an investigation into a former colleague, Cong Lin, the company’s former president.

Mr Bao has worked in the capacity of an adviser in China’s biggest tech companies, including those of JD.Com’s $2bn initial public offering and the public listing of short video platform Kuaishou in Hong Kong.

He founded China Renaissance in 2005 after working at Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley.

The company went public in 2018 and raised $346m.

Sudden high-profile disappearances of Chinese executives has grabbed international headlines after a sweeping crackdown on big technology companies in the past two years.

Since 2015, at least five executives have become unreachable without any notice. This included Fosun Group chairman Guo Guangchang, who was later confirmed by the company to be assisting in investigations.

In 2017, prominent Chinese financier Xiao Jianhua was reportedly abducted from his room in the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong by Chinese security officers.