Chairman of Aim-listed Chinese real estate firm has gone missing

Canton Property Investment has revealed its founder and executive chairman Keng Wong is ‘uncontactable’ as it also admitted to funding problems. Shares in the company, which is developing real estate projects in a southern part of China, have been suspended.

Canton Property Investment, a Chinese developer whose shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange, has revealed that its founder and executive chairman, Keng Wong, has gone missing.

In a statement to the stock exchange, Canton said it regretted to announce that Wong had “recently been absent from the company”. It added that he was “uncontactable”.

Shares were suspended as the company also said it was in talks to cover short-term funding requirements while at the same time negotiating long-term finance to progress the construction of its 110,000 square meter Mall of Canton project in the southern Chinese region of Guangzhou.

The Mall of Canton site was one of two assets the company owned upon its 2007 IPO on London’s Alternative Investment Market (Aim). The other is called Comic City, a themed shopping mall also in Guangzhou which opened in August 2006.

In its statement, the company said a board meeting had been held but that it failed to agree on appointing  an interim chairman. Sir David Brewer, a non executive director resigned with immediate effect at the meeting, while chief financial officer Dennis Yau has decided to resign on Monday.

“Given the uncertainty in relation to [these] matters, the company's shares will be suspended from trading on Aim with immediate effect. A further announcement will be made in due course,” it said.

Shares in the company have crashed 70 percent in the last year. They were trading at 20.5 pence when dealing was suspended.

The unusual situation and clear funding issues come at a tine time when private equity real estate firms begin to express their views that China holds distressed opportunities because of the number of local developers with funding problems.

Last week, one Hong Kong-based private equity real estate professional confirmed to PERE that opportunities were beginning to present themselves.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Hong Kong property tycoon Vincent Lo had spent approximately $700 million in the past year acquiring at least a dozen big real estate projects left unfinished by cash strapped developers.