Fri, Mar 22, 2013 - Page 15 News List

China firm looks for missing chairman

ABSENT MAGNATE:Reportedly detained by Beijing police, Liu Han’s fortune was put at US$855 last year, while his disappearance has affected companies in several countries

AP, BEIJING

A Chinese tycoon with ties to mining companies in the US, Australia and Africa is missing and a newspaper says he has been detained by police.

Sichuan Jinlu Group (四川金路集團) said yesterday it is looking for its chairman, Liu Han (劉漢), and has been unable to contact him by phone.

The newspaper Shanghai Securities News said Liu was detained by Beijing police in the middle of this month while on a business trip to the Chinese capital. Chinese police regularly detain people for lengthy questioning without charge or public notice.

Liu’s main company, Sichuan Hanlong Group (四川漢龍集團), owns a 13 percent stake in General Moly Inc, a Colorado, US-based miner of molybdenum, a mineral used to harden steel. Hanlong was arranging financing for a General Moly mine in Nevada.

General Moly said in a statement on Wednesday it suspended work on a US$665 million loan for its Mount Hope mine from the state-run China Development Bank (國家開發銀行) until it receives clarification from Hanlong.

Hanlong also owns 14 percent of Australia’s Sundance Resources Ltd, which is developing an iron mine in the Republic of the Congo and neighboring Cameroon in central-west Africa.

Hanlong is offering A$1.5 billion (US$1.5 billion) to acquire the rest of the company but Sundance said this week the deal has yet to receive final approval from China’s economic planning agency.

Sundance asked on Wednesday for trading in its shares on Australian markets to be suspended while it seeks information from Hanlong about Liu.

Liu’s Hanlong is part of a wave of Chinese energy and mining companies that are buying assets abroad in Australia, Africa and elsewhere in hopes of profiting from growing global demand.

The biggest acquisitions have been made by state-owned companies, but the role of smaller, private companies is growing.

Liu and his ex-wife were detained in Beijing before they returned to his home province of Sichuan, the Shanghai Securities News said, citing unidentified sources. It said other relatives were detained in Sichuan.

Beijing police did not respond yesterday to questions by phone and fax about whether Liu was detained. Phone calls to Hanlong were not answered.

Liu was No. 148 last year on Forbes magazine’s list of the richest Chinese businesspeople, with a fortune estimated at US$855 million.

Hanlong was founded in 1997 and has interests in mining, construction of hydroelectric power, highway and tourism infrastructure and other businesses with a total workforce of more than 12,000 people, according to its Web site.

Sichuan Jinlu Group, where Liu also is chairman, produces polyvinyl chloride and other chemicals.

In 2010, a Hanlong subsidiary said it planned to invest US$5 billion in steel-related materials including molybdenum and manganese and renewable energy projects in Australia.

In an interview the same year with the Wall Street Journal, Liu said his car was once shot at by an investor who suffered losses due to his aggressive investment style.

“They call me, ‘Liu Han, the only survivor,’” Liu was quoted saying.

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