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Chairman of China's biggest shipbuilder tied to anti-corruption probe

2019-08-27 14:40 Tuesday


China's largest private shipbuilder Yangzijiang Shipbuilding (Holdings) Ltd. has confirmed its chairman Ren Yuanlin is assisting in an unspecified government investigation, according to a recent company statement.

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In a clarification announcement, Yangzijiang Shipbuilding said Ren, its executive chairman, was “currently assisting in a confidential investigation carried out by certain People's Republic of China governmental authorities.”

The high-ranking executive, the latest name to be brought up in association with the country's far-reaching anti-corruption campaign, was given a leave of absence from the firm starting August 9.

During his absence, Ren's duties will be assumed by his son Ren Letian, who is also the company's CEO.

The shipping manufacturer added that, based on its own inquiries, it did not consider that Ren was the actual subject of the investigation. It said its operations and business “are unaffected by the investigation and Ren Yuanlin's leave of absence.”

One source said Ren was assisting in an investigation involving Liu Jianguo, the party leadership member of the standing committee of the people's congress in Changzhou, a city in the east China province of Jiangsu. Ren and Liu had prior contact through involvement in a local charitable organization that was established in 2012.

At the beginning of June, Jiangsu's anti-corruption watchdog said Liu was involved in serious breaches of discipline. The phrase is a common euphemism to describe graft.

China has been waging a war against corruption throughout the entire administration of current President Xi Jinping. The occasional disappearance of people to assist in investigations is not uncommon in the present climate.

One of the highest profile occurrences saw Guo Guangchang, the chairman of private equity firm Fosun International, disappear for several days in 2015. Back then, the company later explained he'd been assisting in an “unspecified investigation”.

Prior to its announcement explaining Ren's absence, Yangzijiang shares had dropped some 25% since early this month, when rumors first began to arise. Its shares were suspended on August 8, and fell another 17 percent when trading was restarted.

Responding to queries made by the Singapore Exchange Regulation, the company said in a statement that Ren Yuanlin had been making major decisions on company matters, including approving the group's unaudited second quarter financial results that were released around the same time.

Based on further enquiries as well as legal advice, Yangzijiang said none of its directors including Ren Yuanlin, its executive officers or any subsidiary of the group are the subject of the investigation. None, apart from Ren Yuanlin, have been requested by authorities to assist or be involved with the investigation.

It reiterated that the group's businesses and operations are unaffected by the investigation and Ren's leave of absence. "It is business as usual for the group's businesses and operations," Yangzijiang said.

Born in 1953, Ren became head of the business that would eventually become Yangzijiang 22 years ago. The company floated in Singapore in 2007, becoming China's first privately-owned shipbuilder to go public on foreign territory.

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