Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. (2318) denied allegations by Century Weekly magazine that the insurer’s management may have helped fund Chinese backers of Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont in his purchase of HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA)’s stake in the company.
Ping An management may have provided funds to allow a Chinese investor backing the deal to repay money borrowed from three mainland banks he controlled, the magazine’s website Caixin Online said in an extract of the article to appear in the Dec. 24 issue. The report didn’t name the managers involved.
“That’s an irresponsible report,” Sheng Ruisheng, Ping An’s Shenzhen-based spokesman, said by phone today. “There absolutely was no such a thing,” he said, referring to the alleged involvement of the company’s management in the acquisition worth a total $9.4 billion.
Suthana Hongthong, a Bangkok-based spokeswoman for Charoen Pokphand Group Co., the company controlled by Dhanin that’s buying HSBC’s stake, declined to comment on the Caixin report.
London-based HSBC said Dec. 5 it agreed to sell its 15.6 percent holding in Ping An to three indirect wholly owned units of Charoen Pokphand in two phases. The first, comprising 20.8 percent of the shares worth about HK$15 billion ($1.9 billion) was completed on Dec. 7. The second, consisting of 79.2 percent of the shares, is conditional on approval from China’s insurance regulator, according to an HSBC statement.
Caixin said only a third of the first payment came from Thai investors with the remainder funded by Chinese investors. One of the backers obtained most of his part of the funds by borrowing from three Chinese city commercial banks he controls, according to the Caixin report.
The money was repaid to the banks 20 days later and likely replaced by funding from Ping An’s management, the report said, citing allegations from unidentified people. Caixin said its own investigations couldn’t verify the people’s allegations.
--Zhang Dingmin. With assistance from Tony Jordan in Bangkok. Editors: Nerys Avery, Bruce Grant
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