China Huarong confirms chairman departs after probe, shares to resume trading

SHANGHAI, April 20 (Reuters) - China Huarong Asset Management Co Ltd, one of China’s largest state-owned bad debt managers, said late on Thursday that its chairman Lai Xiaomin, who is under investigation for alleged corruption, had stepped down.

Reuters reported earlier this week, citing sources, that a senior banking regulator official would take the helm at Huarong after China’s anti-corruption watchdog launched a probe into Lai for “serious discipline violations”, a euphemism for graft.

Huarong said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange that Lai’s departure “will not cause any adverse impact to the business.” It added that its shares, halted earlier this week, would resume trading on Friday morning.

The firm said that Wang Zhanfeng, head of the Guangdong branch of China’s banking regulator, had been lined up as the new chairman. Li Xin, chief supervisor of China Orient Asset Management Co Ltd, would be named president of Huarong.

Huarong hit the headlines this year after building up a 36 percent stake in a key unit of embattled private energy company CEFC China Energy which is acquiring a $9.1 billion stake in Russia’s oil major Rosneft.

The investigation into Lai makes him the latest in a long line of top Chinese executives coming under fire as China looks to rein in risks in the financial sector, targeting riskier lending practices and high levels of corporate debt.

Huarong Investment Stock Corp Ltd and Huarong International Financial Holdings Ltd - which also earlier suspended trading of their shares - will restart trading on Friday, the two Huarong units said in separate statements. (Reporting by Adam Jourdan; editing by Richard Pullin)