Casino operator soars 45 per cent in Hong Kong as missing boss returns

Landing International Development opened integrated casino resort Jeju Shinhwa World in South Korea in March 2018.
Landing International Development opened integrated casino resort Jeju Shinhwa World in South Korea in March 2018. PHOTO: JEJU SHINHWA WORLD

HONG KONG (AFP) - Shares in an Asian casino operator soared more than 40 per cent in Hong Kong on Tuesday (Nov 27) after it said its tycoon head, who suddenly went missing in August, had "resumed his duties".

Landing International Development said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange late on Monday that Mr Yang Zhihui has returned to his roles as chairman and executive director.

At the time of his disappearance, mainland news site Caixin reported that Mr Yang was being investigated by Chinese authorities over his ties with the head of state-controlled Huarong Asset Management and had been detained in Cambodia.

China's anti-corruption agency announced in April that Huarong chairman Lai Xiaomin was under investigation for suspected graft.

"Mr Yang explained that he has been assisting the relevant department of the People's Republic of China with its investigation during the period of his absence," the statement from Landing on Monday said.

Landing's shares jumped as much as 45 per cent on Tuesday morning before easing slightly to sit up 35.2 per cent at HK$3.69 (S$0.65).

Mr Yang's disappearance was a further setback for the firm soon after a project in Manila had been stopped.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier in August pulled the plug on the US$1.5 billion (S$2.06 billion) casino in the Philippine capital, saying the terms of the lease agreement were flawed.

Landing opened integrated casino resort Jeju Shinhwa World in South Korea in March this year.

While the firm's stock surged on Tuesday, it is still well down from the HK$20 seen in March.

Chinese President Xi Jinping launched an anti-graft campaign in 2012, after he took the reins of the Communist Party, and has snared errant party officials as well as corporate executives.

Some of the country's top business people have faced heightened scrutiny from the authorities, who have moved aggressively to prevent heavily indebted large private companies from collapsing and triggering a financial crisis.

Financier Xiao Jianhua vanished from his Hong Kong apartment last year and reports suggest he was abducted by mainland security agents. He was believed to be under investigation in connection with China's 2015 stock crash.

Real estate kingpin Guo Wengui fled to the United States in 2014, where he is now seeking asylum.

The billionaire Xu Ming, who was close to former top-ranking Shanghai leader Bo Xilai - a political rival of Mr Xi - died in prison at the end of 2015.

And even Interpol president Meng Hongwei, who rose through the ranks of China's feared public security apparatus and who went missing in October, was caught up in Mr Xi's no-holds-barred anti-graft campaign in October. He has since resigned.