Head of Xinjiang Hops goes missing

Richard McGregor
Financial Times

Shanghai. Aikelamu Aishayoufu, the chairman of Xinjiang Hops, a Shanghai-listed company, has gone missing, the board announced yesterday, in the latest scandal to hit one of China's new class of wealthy entrepreneurs.
Mr Aishayoufu, 45, an ethnic Uighur, from western China, is one of China's richest businessmen, ranked 22nd in the country, according to the value of his shares in Xinjaing Hops, in a recent Asiamoney rich-list.
Asiamoney calculated that Mr Aishayoufu was worth $351m, based on his shareholding declared in Xinjiang Hops' annual report, but he has not left his company in good shape, according to the board.
In a statement to the stock exchange following his disappearance, the board also disclosed new loan liabilities of Rmb987m ($119m), double the company's net assets, and receivables of Rmb265m.
The Urumqi-based company, which produces hops for the beer industry, has a further Rmb140m in overdue loans and Rmb800m in already disclosed loans guarantees.
The company's share price dropped by the maximum 10 per cent on Tuesday this week after Mr Aishayoufu's disappearance and the announcement of a new chairman, Yao Rongjiang, formerly vice-chairman.
The board said it only became aware that the former chairman had disappeared when it received a request to contact him on October 30 from the Shanghai stock exchange. The company's debts belie the healthy market conditions for its core product, hops, the price of which has been climbing for two years. Xinjiang Hops also has interests in biotechnology.
Mr Aishayoufu is one of the most prominent Uighur business leaders in the ethnic Turkic province, which has long resisted, sometimes violently, rule by Beijing.
The wealthiest Uighur business leader, Rebiya Kadeer, was sent to jail for eight years in 2000 for disclosing state secrets to foreigners after providing newspaper clippings to her husband in the US.