Yingde CEO plans to step down in new twist to ongoing corporate battle

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 10:40pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 10:40pm

The chief executive of China’s largest industrial gas supplier said he wants to step down only three months after being appointed to his current position, adding a new twist to what has already become one of the country’s most intense corporate tussles.

He Yuanping, named chief executive of Hong Kong-listed Yingde Gases Group last November, informed the company of his intention to “transition his duties to other management members as soon as can be arranged in a manner not disruptive to the stability of the company”, according to a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

The 51-year-old has been serving as chief financial officer of Shenzhen-listed Beijing OriginWater Technology and as a non-executive director of Yingde for years before he was appointed Yingde’s chief executive at a board meeting on November 5.

Yingde Gases shares surge on takeover approach by American rival Air Products

However, the meeting’s validity was contested by Yingde’s ex-chairman Sun Zhongguo and former chief operating officer Trevor Strutt, who were re-designated as non-executive directors by a vote on the same day on the grounds of their “unsatisfactory performance”.

The troubled gas supplier has been waiting on a suitor that might take it over, but was recently drawn into a contentious boardroom dispute between two camps of current and ousted directors over the introduction of Beijing OriginWater – an unrelated business – as a shareholder to help it repay debt.

In the filing issued on Tuesday, OriginWater said it has no intention to pursue any strategic transaction with Yingde and does not intend to build up its ownership in the gas supplier.

In a series of decisions that reshuffled Yingde’s top management, the November meeting made Zhao Xiandi, who was an executive director previously responsible for managing Yingde’s domestic financial planning and operations, the company’s new chairman.

The board – excluding Sun and Strutt – also struck a deal to sell new shares to Beijing OriginWater in November, which would see the latter’s stake rise from 4.2 per cent to 20.2 per cent and become its largest shareholder.

With its US rival Air Products expressing an interest in buying out Yingde, the company scrapped its share placement deal with Originwater in January.

Sun and Strutt are fighting to resume their executive roles, and an extraordinary meeting for shareholders on March 8 will decide the fate of the two directors. At the meeting Zhao’s camp will propose to remove them from the board.