Fosun chairman makes first public appearance after assisting China probe

This photo taken on Jun 25, 2015, shows Guo Guangchang attending a conference in Hangzhou, in eastern China's Zhejiang province.
This photo taken on Jun 25, 2015, shows Guo Guangchang attending a conference in Hangzhou, in eastern China's Zhejiang province. PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) – Fosun International Chairman Guo Guangchang attended a company meeting in Shanghai on Monday (Dec 14), two people at the event told Reuters, his first public appearance since a report that he had gone missing last week sparked speculation that the firm was being drawn into Beijing’s corruption crackdown.

Mr Guo, a self-styled student of investor Warren Buffett, did not say where he had been, or make any reference to a Fosun statement on Sunday that said he had been assisting the Chinese authorities in an investigation, an executive who declined to be named said on the sidelines of the meeting.

Instead, Mr Guo discussed Fosun’s strategy and performance, receiving a standing ovation from the people gathered at a Shanghai hotel for the meeting, the sources said.

Both sources declined to be named as they were not authorised to speak to the media. A Fosun spokesman declined to give any details about the meeting.

Mr Guo’s alleged disappearance late last week had sparked investors concern about its impact on Fosun, one of China’s most aggressive global deal makers with stakes in French resort chain Club Med, Britain’s Thomas Cook Group and iconic US building One Chase Manhattan Plaza.

A string of senior Chinese executives have gone missing temporarily this year, amid a widespread government crackdown on corporate graft, especially in China’s financial sector.

- NEGATIVE IMPACT -

Fosun International’s Hong Kong-listed shares were suspended on Friday after reports of Mr Guo’s disappearance late on Thursday triggered a sell-off in the firm’s overseas depository receipts in New York.

Resuming trade on Monday, Fosun’s Hong Kong shares plunged 13.5 per cent before recouping some losses, as investors remained wary a day after Fosun’s president Wang Qunbin said all current deals were “proceeding normally” and the firm would buy back shares if stock prices fluctuated.

Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd, also suspended on Friday, dropped over 10 per cent on Monday.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said Mr Guo’s involvement in the probe had yet to impact Fosun’s credit ratings and outlook, but an “extended investigation” could negatively impact the firm’s access to funding and pending acquisitions.

Mr Guo, 48, has built an empire stretching from insurance and banking to healthcare and leisure, amassing a personal net worth of US$5.7 billion (S$8.1 billion), according to Forbes.