Chinese tycoon goes missing amid anti-corruption crackdown

One of China’s top entrepreneurs, the chairman of the conglomerate that owns Club Med and other businesses in Europe and the United States, has gone missing.
Guo Guangchang was last seen at Shanghai airport. Picture: APGuo Guangchang was last seen at Shanghai airport. Picture: AP
Guo Guangchang was last seen at Shanghai airport. Picture: AP

It was reported yesterday as a possible sign that an anti-corruption campaign is widening beyond state companies.

Fosun International employees were unable to contact Guo Guangchang after midday on Thursday, the magazine Caixin said on its website. It cited messages on social media that Mr Guo was last seen with police at an airport in Shanghai.

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China is in the midst of a three-year-old anti-corruption crackdown led by president Xi Jinping that has caught dozens of executives at state-owned companies in oil and other industries. A court cited Mr Guo in August as being linked to a supermarket chain chairman who was jailed for corruption.

A series of figures in China’s securities industry have disappeared or been detained since August after authorities launched an investigation following a plunge in Chinese share prices in June.

Fosun, China’s biggest privately owned conglomerate, and its pharmaceutical unit suspended trading of their shares yesterday in Hong Kong. They cited the pending release of an announcement with “inside information.” Phone calls to Fosun’s media and investor relations departments weren’t answered.

If Mr Guo is under investigation, that suggests authorities are extending scrutiny beyond state-owned enterprises, increasing uncertainty for investors, said Ronald Wan, chief executive of investment banking at Partners Capital International in Hong Kong.

“A lot of companies will be on the investigation list and it will alert all the investors,” he said.

Wan said the government should clarify Mr Guo’s status.

“If he is really getting caught in some sort of serious trouble, at least the group can have some sort of contingency plan and work out a solution to how the company can be run,” said Mr Wan.

Mr Guo, 48, is one of China’s biggest investors abroad. Fosun, which he co-founded in the 1990s, has businesses in real estate, steel, mining and retailing. He has been dubbed “China’s Warren Buffett” for following the legendary American investor’s approach of using the cash flow from insurance operations to buy other businesses.

Fosun won a bidding war this year to take over Club Mediterranee, the French resort operator. Last year, it paid €1 billion (£65 million) for Portugal’s biggest insurance company, Caixa Seguros. In the US, it owns Meadowbrook Insurance Group. and 20 per cent ofthe insurer ­Ironshore.