China firm loses 5 years of financial documents as truck stolen

SHANGHAI, Dec 30 (Reuters) - China Animal Healthcare , part owned by Eli Lilly and Co, said on Wednesday it was hunting for five years-worth of financial documents that were lost after the truck carrying them was stolen as the driver took a lunch break.

The documents were stolen while being transported from a storage facility in China’s northern Hebei province to the company’s headquarters in nearby Beijing.

China Animal Healthcare, whose shares have been suspended since March and which is in the middle of an investigation of its accounts, said in an earlier filing on Monday the truck had been stolen on Dec. 4 in the city of Baoding.

The loss of such a large trove of documents will be a concern to investors at a time when China regulators are cracking down on corporate bad behaviour and trying to bolster confidence in the country’s markets and regulators.

The firm said the loss included “original financial documents of the Group for the four financial years ended 31 December 2014 and for the current year.” It added these related to its chemical drug operations and not its vaccine business.

Eli Lilly owns 20 percent of the Hong Kong-listed firm.

China Animal Healthcare did not say in the statements if it had copies of the lost documents, but added it was making efforts to retrieve them from various sources. Calls to the company on Wednesday were not answered

The firm said in the Monday statement it had set up a special investigation group (SIG) to look into the incident.

“Based on the findings of the investigation by the SIG, no suspicious person has been identified in the incident,” it said, adding that local police had said similar thefts were common in the area.

Police had later found the vehicle, but the documents had been removed, the statement added.

Eli Lilly’s animal healthcare division Elanco invested around $100 million for its stake in China Animal Healthcare in 2013, according to a statement from the company at the time.

A China-based spokeswoman for Ely Lilly said she was unable to comment on the story. Elanco’s China office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. (Reporting by Adam Jourdan and SHANGHAI newsroom; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)