Wanda rebuffs rumours its chairman Wang Jianlin had been barred from leaving China
Legal action threatened to clear his and the company’s names if need be, as bond and stock prices fall sharply
Wang Jianlin, the magnate who has had to sell the majority of his hotels and theme parks last month to repay debt, has doused rumours that he’d been barred from leaving China, speaking out to quash speculations amid plunging stock and bond prices in his flagship company.
“Some people with malicious motives have been spreading fake rumours about chairman Wang Jianlin,” his company Dalian Wanda Group said in a statement, dismissing as “groundless” the online claim that he had been detained by police at the Tianjin airport as he was about to leave China on a private jet.
Rumours “initially appeared in mid-August, but were proved wrong when Wang visited Lanzhou,” the statement said.
Wang, the 62-year-old founder of Wanda, and China’s wealthiest businessman from 2015 to 2017 according to Forbes, has been under intense spotlight in the past few months when financial regulators increased their scrutiny of his global shopping spree for assets. The company’s acquisitions since 2012 have included the world’s largest cinema chain, a luxury yacht builder, a Spanish football club, a Hollywood studio, and the global franchise of the Iron Man triathlon races.
Wanda sold 77 of its hotels and 13 theme parks to two Chinese developers last month, in a US$9.5 billion deal to raise funds to pare debt. The company is one among several Chinese asset buyers under close scrutiny, as government regulators tightened the screws on borrowings to maintain financial stability ahead of the Communist Party’s leadership selection this autumn.
Shares of Wanda Hotel Development, the Hong Kong-listed flagship of Wang’s conglomerate, fell as much as 11 per cent to an intraday low of HK$1.54 in morning trading, before ending the day 8 per cent down at HK$1.59.
Most of Wanda’s onshore bonds remained little changed, though one due to mature in 2018 tumbled to an historic low of US$0.974 from US$0.9915, before recovering to US$0.989.
The stock and bond crash was Wanda’s second in two months, after suffering a similar fate in late June when a surprise series of regulatory checks on the company’s borrowings ultimately led to a huge sale in its real estate assets to finance the conglomerate’s loans.
Wu Xiaohui, the chairman and chief executive of privately held insurance conglomerate Anbang Group, had not been seen in public since June. His company, whose worldwide acquisitions since 2012 included Tong Yang Life Insurance in South Korea and the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, said he’s “indisposed” to carry out his duties.
Wang made several public appearances in the past two months, opening a theme park in Harbin, announcing a philanthropy project in Guiyang, and signing away his hotels and theme parks at a hastily assembled press event in Beijing.
Wanda said it’s already handed over the matter of the rumours of Wang’s whereabouts to Beijing’s police, and that the company will actively defend its reputation, as well as Wang’s reputation, through legal means if necessary.