China clothing tycoon back at work after vanishing

Chairman of China’s fashion brand Metersbonwe Zhou Chengjian.
Chairman of China’s fashion brand Metersbonwe Zhou Chengjian.PHOTO: SINA WEIBO

SHANGHAI (AFP) - The chairman of one of China's most prominent clothing firms, Metersbonwe, has returned to work, the company said, a week after announcing his disappearance amid speculation he had been caught up in an insider trading investigation.

Mr Zhou Chengjian, China's 62nd richest person last year with a fortune of US$4.1 billion (S$5.9 billion) according to one estimate, was back working at the Shanghai-headquartered company after colleagues lost contact with him earlier this month, Metersbonwe said in a statement over the weekend.

It did not explain his disappearance, but said company operations were normal and board secretary Tu Ke - who went missing at the same time as Mr Zhou - had also returned to work.

Chinese media reports said that Mr Zhou might have been taken in for questioning in connection with an insider trading case, but gave no details.

His disappearance came weeks after Mr Guo Guangchang - chairman of one of the country's biggest private-sector conglomerates Fosun, and who has been dubbed "China's Warren Buffett" - vanished from public view in connection with an investigation by authorities, and then re-emerged.

Since Mr Xi Jinping took office as president three years ago, China has launched an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign, which has brought down government officials and corporate executives.

The state-backed China Economic News Weekly magazine reported on Monday (Jan 18) that state-backed funds tasked with propping up the stock market during last year's rout bought shares in Metersbonwe, which trades on the Shenzhen stock exchange.

Metersbonwe lost nearly 177 million yuan (S$38.6 million) in the first three quarters of last year, down 178 per cent from the same period in 2014, its results report showed.

The firm - which has been called a Chinese version of fast-fashion retailer H&M - has nearly 4,700 outlets and franchises, according to its website.