The head of China Development Bank's Hong Kong branch has been moved back to Beijing after an internal probe into a loan deal for the US$9.4 billion bid by a Thai conglomerate for HSBC's holding in Ping An Insurance.
Liu Hao, who was the Hong Kong chief of CDB for almost a year, will become a deputy division head in charge of planning and strategy in the Beijing headquarters of the state-owned bank. His new job is equivalent in rank to the old one.
Han Baoxing, who is a key player in offshore yuan-related matters at CDB, will replace Liu. Han is a division head in charge of capital flows and investment at the bank's head office. The news of CDB's new Hong Kong chief was reported yesterday by the Caixin Century Weekly.
The South China Morning Post broke the news on January 10 that CDB senior executives had ordered Liu to return to Beijing to assist in an internal investigation amid growing doubts and questions about a deal to provide loans for Charoen Pokphand (CP) to acquire the 15.6 per cent stake in Ping An, the mainland's No 2 life insurer.
Later, some "systematic problems" in the loan approval process were discovered at the Hong Kong branch, one source said. Although Liu was one of the decision makers who initially approved the deal, the fact he is being moved sideways may indicate he will not take the blame for the decision.
The personnel change at the bank is still subject to approval from the China Banking Regulatory Commission.
Han is considered an expert on the offshore yuan business. His new role shows the bank is still keen to expand its Hong Kong business despite the Ping An setback.
"Liu's return and Han's arrival have been confirmed and announced internally," one source told the Post. "However, the bank is trying to keep the whole case very low-profile because the Ping An deal has become a very sensitive subject."
A CDB spokesman would say only that he was "unaware of the latest development".
Earlier this month, the Post said CDB was reconsidering its decision to finance CP's purchase of the Ping An stake as it was concerned about the funding of the acquisition and whether CP would be the sole buyer and ultimate stakeholder.