Unpaid Chinese investors descend on offices of martial arts movie backer

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - More than 100 Chinese investors descended on the Shanghai offices of Jinlu Financial Advisors on Thursday demanding their money back from investments, including those tied to a martial arts film whose box office figures were inflated.

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Investors on the scene told Reuters that the asset manager invested in movies, real estate and various other sectors and had failed to pay out on investments maturing on or after March 25. They said they had not been informed of reasons for the delayed payments.

According to the investors and Chinese media reports, those movies include Ip Man 3, whose distributor admitted last week to buying 56 million yuan ($8.66 million) in tickets to bump up sales.

The Chinese film industry has been “blighted” by cinemas and distributors cheating to inflate box office figures through accounting ploys or other tricks, such as claiming ticket sales that exceed an auditorium’s capacity, state-owned Xinhua news agency said in its report on the Ip Man 3 fraud last week.

A man at Jinlu Financial Advisors who identified himself as working at the company said he wasn’t authorized to comment on the matter. Other representatives of the company were unavailable to comment and calls to the financial firm’s offices went unanswered.

Cao Luhua, 31, told Reuters his wealth manager called Thursday morning to say it was possible he wouldn’t be able to get roughly 1 million yuan invested with Jinlu Financial Advisors back.

Cao said a friend who worked at the company had suggested he invest.

“It’s my whole family’s money,” he said, speaking outside Jinlu’s offices as dozens of angry investors came and went.

“This money I wanted to take back to my hometown and start a business with,” said Cao, originally from the central Chinese city of Changsha. “One million yuan in Shanghai isn’t enough to have a life in Shanghai, you can’t buy an apartment.”

The incident casts doubt on the rapid growth in Chinese box office sales, which Xinhua said rose to around 44 billion yuan last year, up nearly 50 percent from 2014, at a time when North American ticket sales are slowing.

Investors crowded into Jinlu’s offices, filled with shouting and cigarette smoke, as security guards blocked them from entering certain parts of the building.

Most investors said the company had provided no information on why payouts were delayed.

“We’re all dazed and confused,” said one man, who declined to give his name, saying he had invested 200,000 yuan in the company’s products.

($1 = 6.4628 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Christopher Cushing