Mystery surrounds Chinese billionaire reportedly gone missing

Guo Guangchang is one of China's best-known entrepreneurs

Chinese billionaire, missing, Guo Guangchang, entrepreneur, Thomas Cook, Fosun

Guo Guangchang, chairman of Fosun Group, speaks during the APEC CEO Summit in 2014 | Image: Andy Wong / AP/Press Association Images

A billionaire businessman has reportedly gone missing amid speculation about a widening crackdown by Beijing on the country's financial sector.

Guo Guangchang, whose Fosun empire snapped up the Club Med resort chain in a billion-dollar deal this year and also has a slice of UK travel operator Thomas Cook, is one of China's best-known entrepreneurs.

Online financial magazine Caixin quoted unidentified sources saying Fosun had been unable to reach Mr Guo - described as China's Warren Buffet - since midday on Thursday.

Shares in firms controlled by the businessman were suspended in Hong Kong and mainland China. Fosun said it had requested a trading halt pending the release of a statement.

A spokesman said the company was operating as normal and declined to comment on Mr Guo's whereabouts.

His absence, if confirmed, would make him the most high-profile of a string of senior executives to have gone missing temporarily and could be seen as a strong sign that Beijing is ramping up scrutiny of China's financial sector.

Fosun and Mr Guo were named by a Chinese court in August in relation to a bribery case against Wang Zongnan, a former chairman of a state-owned food company who was jailed for 18 years.

State news agency Xinhua said at the time that Mr Wang's parents had bought two Shanghai villas developed by Fosun at below-market prices and that he had used his position to seek benefits for Fosun.

The company said it had "never sought to inappropriately benefit" and had "never delivered benefits to" Mr Wang.

Mr Guo (48) has built up an overseas empire of industrial companies in addition to a host of insurance, banking and asset management firms. He is also a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Forbes estimates his fortune at US$5.7bn (€5.19bn).

The entrepreneur founded the firm with three fellow graduates of Shanghai's Fudan university in 1992 with start-up capital of US$4,000 (€3,646).

Since then the company has spent more than US$30bn (€27.3bn) snapping up foreign assets - ranging from Portuguese insurer Fidelidade to slices of theatre company Cirque du Soleil.

Alberto Forchielli, founder of private equity firm Mandarin Capital Partners, said: "Should Guo, well-known abroad, be found to be at the centre of a graft investigation, this would be a strong signal to the world that China is serious about its anti-corruption campaign".