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Bao Fan: Billionaire tech banker in China reported missing

Bynewshuntexpress

Feb 17, 2023

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BEIJING — One of China’s most high-profile billionaire bankers has gone missing, his company has reported.

Bao Fan, the chief executive of China Renaissance Holdings, had not been able to be reached in recent days, the firm said in a market update on Thursday.

Bao is a leading deal broker in China whose clients include top tech companies Didi and Meituan.

His firm’s announcement has renewed concerns of a potential Beijing crackdown on finance and tech figures.

Shares in the investment firm plunged on Friday, after it told shareholders it had “been unable to contact Bao Fan”.

The board added it was not aware of “any information that indicates that Bao’s unavailability is or might be related to the business and/or operations of the group”.

When asked for further comment, China Renaissance referred the BBC to its notice to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The company did not specify how long Bao had been missing. Chinese business newswire Caixin cited sources saying staff had not been able to contact him for two days.

The business wire also reported the firm’s president, Cong Lin, had been taken by authorities last September over his previous work at the state-owned ICBC bank.

China Renaissance appears not to have commented on Cong’s situation. He is no longer listed as an executive on the company’s site or in its most recent interim report.

The disappearance of Bao—one of China’s leading tech investors—has again evoked a history of Chinese executives suddenly vanishing for periods of time with no explanation.

At least half a dozen billionaires in the past few years have disappeared for periods after reported run-ins with the Communist Party, according to Forbes Magazine.

In several cases they were suspected to have been entangled in corruption, tax or other misconduct investigations.

Notable absences include that of Fosun group founder Guo Guangchang, who has been called the Warren Buffet of China, who vanished for several days in 2015.

Chinese-Canadian businessman Xiao Jianhua was also taken in 2017. He had been one of China’s richest people and last year was jailed for corruption.

In late 2020, Alibaba founder Jack Ma also disappeared from public view for three months, after making comments critical of market regulators. He had been due to publicly list his digital payments firm Ant Financial — which would have most likely made him the richest man in China.

Bao is seen as a titan in China’s tech industry, having executed many of the trades that have shaped its online consumer economy. He founded China Renaissance in 2005 after a banking career at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse.

His company was behind landmark deals including Tencent’s strategic investment in JD.com, and mergers of ride-hailing power players Didi and Kuaidi, advert sites 58.com and Ganji, and food delivery giants Meituan and Dianping.

China Renaissance has also advised the initial public offerings of e-commerce sites JD.com and Kuashou, as well as Didi’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange in 2021.

In a 2018 article, Bao wrote that his company had “crossed paths” with 70% of the Internet companies known by the Chinese public. BBC

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