China continues to dismantle missing tycoon Xiao Jianhua’s financial empire

Rongtong Fund Management, which was once part of Xiao Jianhua‘s Tomorrow Group, has unveiled a management reshuffle, marking its official exit from the missing Chinese magnate’s embattled financial empire.

Zhang Wei was named Rongtong’s chairman on Friday, taking over from Gao Feng who resigned citing personal reasons after seven years in the position, according to a statement issued by the asset management firm.

Zhang is also the chairman of New Times Securities, which owns Rongtung, and was previously in charge of financial management at central government-owned China Chengtong Holdings Group. Chengtong acquired a majority stake in New Times Securities after the government took over the brokerage from Tomorrow Group.

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The shake-up at Shenzhen-based Rongtong, a money manager overseeing US$36 billion in assets, is another step taken by China’s regulators to defuse risks in the financial sector by cleaning up Xiao’s sprawling business network spanning from banks and brokerages to asset-management and trust firms.

A file photo of Xiao Jianhua. Photo: Handout alt=A file photo of Xiao Jianhua. Photo: Handout>

The tycoon, who has not been seen in public since he left Hong Kong for the mainland in 2017, is believed to be aiding the government’s investigation into some high-profile deal-making. The government seized businesses owned by Xiao, who was accused of rampant mismanagement that led several banks into insolvency and disrupted the financial order.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) on Friday said that it had officially ended its control over New Times Securities since taking over the Beijing-based brokerage in July 2020, and allowed it to restart its business.

In March, the CSRC granted China Chengtong approval to buy a 98.2 per cent stake in New Times Securities, whose senior management were also reshuffled. Chengtong is owned by China’s state-owned asset regulator, with fund investments and financial services being its main business.

Founded in 2001, Rongtong Fund is 60 per cent owned by New Times Securities, with the rest of the stake held by Nikko Asset Management. The firm has 82 funds under management totalling 237.3 billion yuan (US$36 billion), according to its website.

In its heyday, Xiao’s Tomorrow Group owned stakes in 44 financial institutions, whose total value was estimated at 3 trillion yuan. He used the sprawling network to illegally obtain loans and made arbitrages to transfer profits and finance his other businesses.

Baoshang Bank, a key pillar of Xiao Jianhua’s Tomorrow Group, was declared bankrupt in 2020. Photo: Reuters alt=Baoshang Bank, a key pillar of Xiao Jianhua’s Tomorrow Group, was declared bankrupt in 2020. Photo: Reuters>

The government declared Baoshang Bank bankrupt in 2020, a key pillar of Xiao’s Tomorrow Group, after the group illegally borrowed 156 billion yuan from the lender from 2005 to 2019 and failed to repay the loan. Hengfeng Bank and Jinzhou Bank, two other lenders under Tomorrow Group, were also declared insolvent.

The disposal of other financial assets of Tomorrow Group are still continuing.

Guosheng Securities, which has been under regulatory control for two years, may soon find a buyer, according to International Financial News, a publication under the state-run People’s Daily.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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