China’s top tech dealmaker Bao Fan goes missing

The billionaire investment banker is unreachable, according to the investment bank he founded.

Bao Fan
Bao Fan is known as one of China's most influential dealmakers [File: Bobby Yip/Reuters]

Bao Fan, one of China’s most high-profile investment bankers known for overseeing mergers involving tech giants Didi and Meituan, has gone missing, according to the investment bank he founded.

China Renaissance Holdings Ltd said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Thursday that the firm has been unable to reach the billionaire investment banker.

“The board is not aware of any information that indicates that Mr. Bao’s unavailability is or might be related to the business and/or operations of the group which is continuing normally,” China Renaissance, in which Bao holds a nearly 50 percent stake, said in the statement.

Bao has not shown up at his office and has been unreachable for two days, Caixin, a China-based financial news outlet, reported on Thursday.

Caixin also reported that Cong Lin, China Renaissance’s president, has been under investigation by authorities for months.

Bao’s family has been told he is assisting an investigation, Bloomberg News reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Bao is among the most prominent dealmakers in China’s tech scene, having overseen tie-ups between ride-hailing giants Didi and Kuaidi and food delivery platforms Meituan and Dianping.

Bao, who began his career as an M&A banker with Morgan Stanley, founded China Renaissance in 2005.

China Renaissance was listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2018 and has invested in high-profile Chinese startups such as electric carmaker NIO in addition to providing advisory services.

It is not uncommon for business executives to disappear in China, where authorities can detain suspects for months or even years without charge or access to legal representation.

Chinese-Canadian billionaire Xiao Jianhua vanished in Hong Kong in 2017 before reemerging in mainland China five years later to face corruption charges. Xiao, who was taken from his Hong Kong hotel by people believed to be mainland Chinese security agents, was in August sentenced to 13 years in prison for financial crimes including illegal use of funds and bribery.

Yim Fung, the chief of Chinese broker Guotai Junan International, disappeared for more than a month in 2015 before returning to his company after “assisting in certain investigations”.

Jack Ma, the founder of tech behemoth Alibaba, dropped out of public for a year after making critical comments about China’s financial regulators before reemerging in public in late 2021.

Since taking power in 2012, Chinese president Xi Jinping has led a sweeping crackdown on corruption that has ensnared tens of thousands of officials and business people.

Critics say Xi, who has consolidated power more than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has used the anti-corruption drive as a thinly-disguised ploy to purge political rivals.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies