HONG KONG, March 7 (Reuters) - A rare Hong Kong boardroom
battle escalated on Tuesday, with two of the founders and main
shareholders of Yingde Gases Group filing a police
complaint against the company's chairman, ahead of a shareholder
meeting seeking to change its board of directors.
Sun Zhongguo and Trevor Strutt, two of Yingde's founders and
main shareholders, said in a statement they applied to the
Commercial Crime Bureau, a unit of Hong Kong's police that
investigates commercial fraud, to investigate Zhao Xiangti,
another co-founder and major shareholder.
Sun and Strutt called on the police "to investigate possible
criminal activities including false statement, fraud, and
threatening investors" by Zhao and others and applied for the
safeguard of Yingde's chops, or signatory stamps, and financial
records, the statement added.
Yingde said in a separate statement that Zhao informed the
company "the allegations are baseless and spurious," adding that
"he believes the allegations are nothing more than a
diversionary tactic, deliberately announced one day before the
EGMs, to distract all parties from the ongoing sale process."
Yingde shareholders are set to meet on Wednesday during two
separate extraordinary general meetings (EGMs), one to decide on
the removal of Sun and Strutt from the board of directors and a
separate meeting one hour later to vote on the removal of Zhao
and four other directors.
Sun and Strutt, previously the Chairman/CEO and COO of
Yingde, respectively, were relieved from their posts during a
November board meeting that named Zhao chairman of the company
and have since been in a legal fight to get reinstated.
About one month later, in late December, U.S. industrial gas
maker Air Products made a takeover approach of as much
as $1.5 billion in cash for Yingde.
The company has been involved in a takeover battle in recent
months rarely seen in Hong Kong, with the latest twist taking
place last week when Hong Kong-based private equity firm PAG
agreed to buy the combined 42.1 percent stake of Zhao, Sun and
Strutt for $616 million.
On Monday, Yingde said Chief Executive He Yuanping resigned,
but he will remain a director of the company until the
completion of a strategic review that may result in the sale of
one of China's largest industrial gases firms.
(Reporting by Elzio Barreto, editing by Louise Heavens)