China Renaissance CEO Fan Bao and Hui Yin Ching attend the 2018 Breakthrough Prize at NASA Ames Research Center/AFP.

BEIJING, CHINA — Chinese billionaire Bao Fan is “cooperating in an investigation” by authorities, his company said, almost two weeks after his disappearance sparked fears of a renewed crackdown on the nation’s financial services industry.

The China Renaissance chairman rose to fame as a key player in the emergence of some of the country’s biggest tech giants, supervising blockbuster IPOs and a landmark merger between major ride-hailing firm Didi and its top competitor at the time, Kuaidi Dache.

His Hong Kong-listed firm said in a filing dated Sunday that it was now “aware that Mr Bao is currently cooperating in an investigation being carried out by certain authorities” in mainland China.

“The Company will duly cooperate and assist with any lawful request from the relevant PRC authorities, if and when made,” it added, referring to the country by its official name: the People’s Republic of China.

The firm did not provide further details about the nature of the investigation, nor did it reply to an AFP request for comment.

Shares in the company slumped as much as 50 per cent at one point following the February 16 announcement that he was missing, before clawing back to sit at around 30 per cent down.

While yet to recover from that slump, the firm was up 1.97 per cent in early trading on Monday.

Powerhouse

China Renaissance has developed into a global financial institution since its founding in 2005, with more than 700 employees and offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and New York.

The group has supervised the IPOs of several domestic tech giants, including leading e-commerce firm JD.com, as well as the 2015 merger between two of the country’s top ride-hailing apps.

That same year, Bao appeared on Bloomberg Market’s 50 Most Influential list, with the financial newswire writing the “fast-talking” banker had the ability to “arrange practically anything in China’s vibrant tech scene”.

But an aggressive crackdown on alleged corruption by President Xi Jinping has since clipped the wings of many of China’s leading financiers and major tech companies.

According to financial news outlet Caixin, China Renaissance president Cong Lin was taken into custody last September as authorities launched a probe into his work at the financial leasing unit of state-owned bank ICBC.

And in 2017, Chinese-Canadian businessman Xiao Jianhua received a 13-year jail sentence under corruption charges last August.

Known to hold close ties to top Chinese Communist Party leaders, the billionaire was reportedly abducted from his Hong Kong hotel room by plainclothes police officers from Beijing.

At the time of his arrest, Xiao was one of China’s richest men, with an estimated fortune of $6 billion.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma has also seen his fortune fall by around half to an estimated $25 billion after regulators pulled the plug on what would have been the world’s biggest-ever IPO — that of fintech giant Ant Group.

A reshuffle of Ant’s shareholding structure announced in January saw Ma, who has since receded from public view, cede control of the megafirm he founded in 2014.

— AFP

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