Fosun says online rumours about chairman going missing are false

Mr Guo Guangchang, executive director and chairman of Fosun International.
Mr Guo Guangchang, executive director and chairman of Fosun International. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Chinese conglomerate Fosun saw shares in its listed units fall on Thursday (July 6), prompting it to refute online rumours that it had lost contact with its billionaire chairman Guo Guangchang.

The firm said in a statement Mr Guo was in Shaanxi province giving a speech in the city of Xi'an and that online reports he had gone missing were "sheer rumour and malicious slander".

"Fosun Group's operations are all normal," it said.

Shares in Fosun International, which has businesses ranging from insurance to French holiday firm Club Med, dropped 4 per cent in morning trade, while Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group was down 7.5 per cent.

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A number of high-profile Chinese executives have gone missing for short periods of time, making investors nervous.

Mr Guo was in the spotlight in 2015 when reports that he had gone missing sparked speculation that Fosun had been drawn into Beijing's corruption crackdown. The company later said that he had been helping police with an investigation that mostly concerned his personal affairs.

Sources said last month that China's banking regulator has ordered a group of lenders to assess their exposure to offshore deals by a handful of firms that have been on an overseas buying spree. Those firms include Fosun as well as HNA Group, Dalian Wanda, Anbang Insurance Group and Zhejiang Luosen.

China's top corporate dealmakers must pay off the equivalent of at least US$11.5 billion (S$15.9 billion) in bonds and loans by the end of 2018 - a feat now complicated by government efforts to rein in their aggressive rush overseas.

That figure represents just a fraction of the total debt of 1.1 trillion yuan ($162 billion) that the Chinese companies have reported as they projected their money and influence around the world with a record number of acquisitions. The size of their obligations - and whether they will be able to shoulder them - has begun to worry global banks and investors now that Beijing has pressed companies to dial back their ambitions abroad.