Wang Shi (王石), who built China Vanke Co (萬科) into China’s biggest developer after founding it 33 years ago, yesterday stepped down as chairman after an ownership tussle that ended with a state entity becoming its biggest investor.
The exit of Wang, 66, comes after metro line builder Shenzhen Metro Group Co (深圳地鐵集團) emerged as a white knight last year and did a deal this month to boost its shareholding.
Statements from Vanke and its founder did not make it clear whether he was severing all connections.
“One key question is whether Wang Shi’s departure is clear-cut — or whether he will still play some role as a consultant or adviser,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Kristy Hung said.
The twist comes just as the nation’s biggest developer by market value is seemingly set for a new phase of stability after a tussle that Vanke said threatened projects, contracts and the firm’s credit profile.
Last year, Vanke ceded its top position for contracted sales to rival China Evergrande Group (恒大集團) and it now sits behind Country Garden Holdings Co (碧桂園) this year.
Unlike his counterparts at big Chinese rivals, Wang does not have a controlling stake in the company. That left the field wide open for the raid in 2015 by Baoneng Group (寶能集團).
On WeChat (微信), Wang, a high profile businessman with a big public following, said that he was handing “the baton” over to the younger team of the company president Yu Liang (郁亮), aged 52.
Wang’s name was missing from a list of board nominees that included Yu.
“Wang has largely kept his hands off the firm’s day-to-day management since Yu Liang took the role of president, so it’s natural for him to abdicate in favor of executives actively involved,” DBS Vickers Hong Kong Ltd China property analyst Danielle Wang (王丹) said.
“However, he will definitely remain as Vanke’s spiritual leader, like a consultant or think tank,” Danielle Wang said. “I’m sure Yu Liang can still turn to him when he needs advice.”
Vanke’s share price in Hong Kong has fallen 7 percent since Yu said in December 2015 that the company faced a hostile takeover from Baoneng, a slump that compares with gains of 141 percent and 184 percent for China Evergrande and Country Garden respectively. Vanke’s stock had gained 1 percent in Hong Kong as of 1:09pm yesterday.
From December 2015, Vanke was embroiled in China’s most high-profile corporate battle, involving a tangled web of state-owned shareholders, competitors and a hostile predator.
Shenzhen Metro is to have a 29.4 percent shareholding after agreeing to buy a stake in Vanke from China Evergrande.
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