China Everbright Holdings yesterday confirmed Liu Mingkang, a deputy governor at the mainland's central bank, had replaced Zhu Xiaohua as chairman. However, the investment company refused to explain the reason behind the sudden management shuffle except to say Mr Zhu had been transferred to Beijing for other assignments. Mr Liu said at a news conference the departure of Mr Zhu, a protege of Premier Zhu Rongji, was 'a normal operation'. He deflected a barrage of questions about whether Mr Zhu was under investigation by mainland authorities. China Everbright is under the direct control of the mainland's State Council. Mr Liu, who has an MBA from City University in London and who speaks English fluently, said he would continue his predecessor's strategy of focusing China Everbright on financial services. 'Zhu Xiaohua has said it clearly: financial services would be our core business,' he said. 'I agree with that.' He said no other management changes were planned. Mr Liu also said he would soon tender his resignation as a deputy governor of the People's Bank of China. The stock market reacted favourably to Mr Liu's appointment and his comments yesterday. Brokers said Mr Liu was successful removing uncertainty about China Everbright, which has listed subsidiaries in Hong Kong and overseas. Investor sentiment was also bolstered by Mr Liu's perceived close relations with Premier Zhu, they said. China Everbright listed flagship, China Everbright Ltd, surged 12.61 per cent to $6.25. The news also lifted other red chips, with the red-chip index gaining 2.81 per cent and the H-share index rising 2.1 per cent. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index finished up 0.52 per cent. Mr Liu, who is in charge of financial regulation at the central bank, said China Everbright encountered difficulties during the Asian financial crisis. He promised to strengthen the company's internal risk management. 'A healthy organisation should strengthen its internal risk and auditing management,' he said. 'That is not to say that we are poor in this area, but we could be better if we strengthen that area and that is one of my major missions.' Analysts and investors said they mostly welcomed Mr Liu's assuring words. Nonetheless, some analysts said they still questioned whether Mr Zhu's sudden departure had something do with financial problems at China Everbright. According to sources, Mr Zhu was under investigation by mainland authorities for unspecified 'economic irregularities'. However, they said it was not clear whether those 'irregularities' involved money or assets from China Everbright. Some reports have indicated the investigation was focused upon the period when Mr Zhu was both a deputy governor at the central bank and the secretary-general of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. Mr Liu is the third deputy central bank governor to have taken the helm of the China Everbright.