Guo banks on social media never making him ‘unreachable’ again

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 5:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 10:59pm

“It’s taken us 25 years to move one kilometre from where we began,” muses Guo Guangchang from Fosun’s new head office, called The Bund Finance Center – a new financial quarter built near the waterfront of Shanghai’s old town.

Designed by Foster and Partners – the British company behind HSBC’s headquarters in Hong Kong among countless other flagship creations, and Heatherwick Studio, the development includes two 180-metre landmark towers containing offices, a boutique hotel and retail spaces.

Guo spends a week in month in Shanghai, where his office offers a panoramic view of the Huangpu River. It’s important he does so, for when you are the chairman of a major Chinese listed company, there is a value in being visible.

On the day we meet, the share price of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co, had tumbled almost nine per cent in Shanghai and seven per cent in Hong Kong, thanks to online chatter speculating that Guo was unreachable – a euphemism for the government detaining somebody for financial crimes investigation.

Investors were reminded of the time in December 2015 when Guo was out of the public eye for a few days to help with what his communications people later described as “financial judicial investigations”.

This time, Guo was simply stuck in the Shaanxi provincial capital of Xi’an, where he had been delivering a speech to the local chamber of commerce. With his private jet unavailable, Guo had to fly commercial and was delayed getting back home.

When he finally got back to Shanghai, he arranged conference call streamed live to over 1,000 listeners, confirming he was fine.

It eventually transpired that Hithink, a Zhejiang-based provider of financial data and stock trading platform, had recycled a news report from December 2015 about Guo’s investigation, as fresh news in July, causing panic among Fosun’s shareholders.

Guo promised an investigation. The China Securities Regulatory Commission later fined Hithink 200,000 yuan (US$30,750) for spreading misleading market-sensitive information.

Fosun’s share prices recovered, but the episode illustrated just how integral Guo’s well-being and whereabouts is to his business empire.

Guo has since taken to China’s social media to broadcast his musings while on the road and blogging while visiting Fosun’s overseas businesses.

Meanwhile, Guo still takes a hands-on approach to running his company. Word has it that no investment or acquisition, regardless of the amount, ever goes ahead without the chairman signing off. “It’s not a matter of the monetary sum, but a matter of the team responsible for it,” Guo says. “If it’s something that’s being handled by somebody I trust, and it’s a team that has had a lot of experience executing deals, like [Fosun Pharmaceutical’s co-chairman] Chen Qiyu, that’s probably something where I can take a relatively light touch.”