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Thu, Nov 16, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Chinese retailer Wumart picks interim chairman

AP AND AFP , HONG KONG AND BEIJING

Beijing's largest retailer, Wumart Stores Inc (物美商業集團), has appointed an interim replacement for its chairman and co-founder who resigned earlier, Dow Jones Newswires reported yesterday.

Wumart, which operates supermarkets in Beijing and Tianjin, has appointed executive director Wu Jianzhong (吳堅忠) as acting chairman to succeed Zhang Wenzhong (張文中), Dow Jones said, citing unidentified individuals familiar with the situation.

They could not confirm Hong Kong newspaper reports that the Chinese government was investigating Zhang, or say if he was assisting with any investigations, Dow Jones said.

The Standard, a Hong Kong-based English-language newspaper, said in a report yesterday that Zhang was under government investigation over how he obtained the capital to set up the company in 1994. The paper did not say who gave it the information.

The Chinese-language business paper Shanghai Securities News had a similar report on Tuesday, citing sources that Chinese Communist Party investigators are probing how Zhang raised money for his Beijing-based but Hong Kong-listed company in 1994.

Zhang was also under investigation for an allegedly improper relationship with a department of the National Developmental Reform Commission, the report said, without elaborating.

Analysts said Zhang's resignation will likely hurt the company's stock when it resumes trading. It has been suspended from trading since Monday, pending the release of price-sensitive information.

Shares in Wumart, listed in Hong Kong in 2003, were up 85 percent before the suspension, with investors attracted by the quality of the company's management team, analysts said.

Zhang had recruited experienced foreign managers from leading European retail firms, and had directed an aggressive regional expansion strategy.

Separately, the former chairman of one of China's biggest banks who was jailed 15 years for taking bribes has not appealed his sentence and will do the time, state media said yesterday.

Zhang Enzhao (張恩照), who resigned 16 months ago as chairman of China Construction Bank Ltd (中國建設銀行), was sentenced on Nov. 3 in a case that added to a string of high-profile graft cases at state-owned banks.

He did not lodge an appeal within the legal time limit, Xinhua news agency reported, and a court official confirmed the verdict and sentence would stand.

He pleaded guilty last month and said he accepted 1.5 million yuan (US$185,000) in bribes.

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