Monday, November 23, 2015

HONG KONG/CHINA: Guotai Junan Unit Says Chairman Yim Fung Can't Be Contacted

Guotai Junan Unit Says Chairman Yim Fung Can't Be Contacted
 Bloomberg News

November 22, 2015 — 7:23 PM EST Updated on November 23, 2015 — 5:44 AM EST

Guotai Junan International Says Unable to Reach CEO Yim Fung hasn't been in contact since Nov. 18, firm says Brokerage's shares fall 12% after temporary replacements named

Guotai Junan International Holdings Ltd. shares plunged 12 percent in Hong Kong after the brokerage said it can’t contact its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Yim Fung.

The Hong Kong unit of one of China’s biggest securities firms, Guotai Junan Securities Co., appointed temporary replacements after failing to reach Yim since Nov. 18, the company told the stock exchange on Monday. The executive “currently cannot discharge his duties,” the company said.

Two calls to Yim’s mobile phone went to his voicemail box.

The stock’s slide to close at HK$2.85 on Monday was its biggest decline in three months. The shares
fell as much as 17 percent earlier in the day.

Based in Hong Kong, Yim has a high profile in the local securities industry, including through his comments to the media and as chairman and then honorary chairman of the Chinese Securities Association of Hong Kong. In China, Yim is known as Yan Feng.

Chinese Crackdown

The developments at Guotai Junan International coincide with finance industry investigations in China prompted by the nation’s summer stock bust and President Xi Jinping’s campaign against corruption. Officials at the securities regulator, senior staff at Citic Securities Co., and a top fund manager are among those who have been caught up in probes.

The most senior official under investigation in the Chinese probes is Yao Gang, a vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission who formerly oversaw initial public offerings. He was the general manager of Guotai Junan Securities from 1999 to 2002. Yim was taken away for investigation in connection with Yao’s case, reported, citing unidentified person in Hong Kong financial industry.

People may associate the Guotai Junan International events “with the recent crackdown on the financial industry by mainland authorities,” said Ronald Wan, chief executive at Partners Capital International in Hong Kong. “Investors will be concerned about the company’s operations. It will also affect sentiment over the brokerage industry as a whole as the industry is now under greater scrutiny.”

Discipline Violations

In another case, Wang Yanxiu, the Communist Party head within the China Banking Association -- a body supervised by the China Banking Regulatory Commission -- was removed from that role and demoted for offences including concealing his wife’s U.S. citizenship, the party’s discipline committee said on Friday. Wang was a former director of innovation oversight at the CBRC, commenting on topics such as the development of asset-backed securities and Internet finance.

Guotai Junan International’s Yim, who’s in his early 50s, has been vocal on topics such as the Hong Kong-Shanghai stock link and the Qualified Domestic Institutional Investors program, which allows Chinese investors to access overseas capital markets.

He’s been a member of a branch of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a government advisory body, and was named director of the year by the Hong Kong Institute of Directors in 2012. He’s also among the business people who have voted for chief executive in Hong Kong’s limited-suffrage elections.

Sweeping Probes

The Communist Party’s discipline committee, which searches for corruption, is sweeping through the finance industry and its regulators. Besides the banking association’s Wang, three CBRC officials were punished for offenses ranging from gambling to receiving cash gifts and promoting staff in violation of party protocol, the committee said on its website on Friday.

At least 16 people have been arrested, are being investigated or have been taken away from their job duties to assist mainland authorities, according to statements and announcements compiled by Bloomberg. Those under investigation include Xu Xiang, known as “hedge fund brother No. 1” for his knack of timing swings in stocks and for his top performance among money managers in China.
Executives under scrutiny at Citic Securities include President Cheng Boming. No comment has been available from Cheng or others who have been named by state media or their companies as under investigation or assisting with investigations.

Yim’s Replacements

At Guotai Junan International, Qi Haiying, a director and a deputy CEO, will be temporary chairman, the company said. Wong Tung Ching, a director and a deputy CEO, will be temporary CEO.

Wong was the target of a bribery probe by Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption where investigators seized securities trading-account records and an agreement relating to a placement, Guotai Junan International told the stock exchange in December last year. In June, the company said the probe was over. ICAC said it wouldn’t comment on individual cases.

The Yim announcement is “negative for the brokerage sector,” said Andrew Clarke, director of trading at Mirabaud Asia Ltd. “Market wide, I would expect little impact as it seems to be quite a regular occurrence at the moment.”

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