Chinese investment bank tries to reassure employees after founder disappears

Chinese investment bank tries to reassure employees after founder disappears

China Renaissance, one of the country’s top investment banks, struggled to calm concerned employees after its founder and renowned dealmaker Bao Fan disappeared.

Shares of the company fell 50 percent when the Hong Kong market opened on Friday, before losses narrowed to about 28 percent after the boutique bank said it could not contact Bao.

In a message sent to staff on Friday morning and made available to the Financial Times, Wang Lixing, head of investment banking, tried to allay concerns about Bao’s disappearance.

“Good morning . . . I think everyone had a restless night,” Wang said, urging staff “not to spread or believe rumors.”

Wang did not mention Bao by name, but said staff management has been in touch with the “backbone of our investment banking department.”

He added that “at such a critical moment, everyone must believe in the group, believe in the Executive Committee and not lose their heads,” but acknowledged that “the information available is limited.”

China Renaissance did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The disappearance of Bao, who made his fortune from tech deals, comes as Beijing appears to be facilitating a crackdown on the sector, which had throttled the investment bank’s once-thriving business of lucrative listings and corporate financing.

The bank said in a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Thursday evening that the company “was unable to contact Mr. Bao Fan” and was unaware that his “unavailability was related to the business and/or operation of the group is related or could be related”.

The Beijing-based financial group said its executive committee will manage day-to-day operations in his absence.

Business numbers in China often become unattainable when subject to government scrutiny.

Bao’s disappearance adds to a long list of Chinese financial executives who have disappeared as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s long-running anti-corruption campaign, which he launched shortly after taking office in 2012.

Bao’s ties to China’s tech sector began in the late 1990s, when he met the founders of the country’s “tech trinity” – Jack Ma of Alibaba, Pony Ma of Tencent and Robin Li of Baidu. “I met them when they were nobody,” Bao told the Financial Times in 2018.

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But the fortunes of China’s tech moguls have changed dramatically under Xi’s tenure, and shares in most tech companies have not fully recovered from a sell-off triggered by a crackdown on the sector.

Two years ago, a phase of intensive official investigations began with the failed IPO of the transport service provider Didi Chuxing. China Renaissance acted as Didi’s bookrunner for the New York List.

The company advanced its $4.4 billion stock sale in 2021 despite national security concerns from regulators. The group had to be delisted from the stock exchange in June last year.

Additional reporting by William Langley in Hong Kong