BEIJING • The chairman of one of China's most prominent fashion firms, Metersbonwe, has disappeared, the company said, prompting media speculation yesterday that he may have been caught up in the country's anti-corruption drive.
The news coincided with an announcement yesterday from China's top anti-graft body that the former head of the country's fifth-largest steelmaker has been expelled from the ruling Communist Party for graft and will face a criminal investigation.
Metersbonwe could not reach chairman Zhou Chengjian, ranked China's 62nd richest man last year by wealth publisher Hurun, and the secretary of the board, it said in a statement to the Shenzhen stock exchange, where it is listed.
Trading in its shares would remain suspended "to protect investors' interests", it said.
Without citing a source, the Qianjiang Evening News said Mr Zhou may have been detained in connection with an insider trading case.
The announcement came only weeks after the four-day disappearance of Mr Guo Guangchang, dubbed "China's Warren Buffett" and the chairman of one of China's biggest private-sector conglomerates, Club Med owner Fosun. Fosun said that he was cooperating with the judicial authorities as reports linked him to a corruption investigation.
The Chinese authorities are targeting the financial sector as part of a sweeping anti-graft campaign following a stock market rout that rocked global markets last summer.
Hurun estimated Mr Zhou's net worth at US$4.1 billion (S$5.9 billion). Once a poor tailor, he built up Shanghai-based Metersbonwe into one of the best-known fashion brands in China.
The firm is one of the most prominent of several unusually named English-language brands in China that are largely unknown outside the country. Like a homegrown H&M, the company specialises in inexpensive clothing for young people and has nearly 5,000 outlets and franchises across the country, according to its website.
The Metersbonwe name was created from Chinese characters intended to sound foreign to domestic consumers, reports say.
In recent years it has sought to build its brand internationally. Actor Shia LaBeouf wore a Metersbonwe T-shirt in the third Transformers film in 2011.
Separately, China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said yesterday that Deng Qilin, the former chairman of the Wuhan Iron and Steel Group, was guilty of serious discipline violations and had used his position to pursue his own private interests and those of his relatives.
The CCDI said Deng had obstructed and deceived investigators, and also accused him of long-term involvement in "superstitious activities", a charge often employed by the party to discredit corrupt officials.
The group, based in Wuhan in central Hubei province, runs one of China's oldest steel mills and is the parent of the Shanghai-listed Wuhan Iron and Steel Corp. The company was not immediately available for comment.
Deng, 65, was first put under investigation by the CCDI last August.
He was an influential figure in China's steel sector until his official retirement in June last year. He served as head of the China Iron and Steel Association and was a longstanding member of the National People's Congress, the country's legislature.
Since taking office three years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping has waged a war against corruption that has brought down numerous senior officials and state enterprise executives.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Recent cases of missing executives
Chinese fashion brand Metersbonwe said on Thursday that it had "lost contact" with its billionaire chairman , Mr Zhou Chengjian, 50. Chinese media speculated that police had detained him in connection with an insider trading case.
Mr Guo Guangchang, 48, a billionaire known as China's Warren Buffett, went missing on Dec 10 and reappeared in public only a few days later. Fosun Group, China's largest private-sector conglomerate, said
its chairman had been detained by the police and was assisting in an investigation.
The disappearance of Mr Yim Fung, 52, the chairman and chief executive officer of Guotai Junan International, sent the brokerage's shares plunging 12 per cent in Hong Kong. He was back at work one month after and the firm said he had "assisted in certain investigations".
Caixin, a respected financial news magazine, reported that Mr Mao Xiaofeng, 43, president of China Minsheng Bank, could not be reached. Then in February, the bank announced that he had resigned for "personal reasons", following media reports that he was being investigated by the country's anti-corruption watchdog.