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Yangzijiang executive chairman Ren Yuanlin returns: report

YANGZIJIANG Shipbuilding's executive chairman Ren Yuanlin has returned after being on leave for more than four months to assist in a confidential probe in Beijing.

Mr Ren returned to his home on the evening of Dec 20, reported Chinese financial news outlet Caixin, citing sources. When contacted by The Business Times (BT), Yangzijiang – China's largest non-state-owned shipbuilder and the world's fifth-largest based on its outstanding order book size of US$3.2 billion – declined to comment.

The company later announced in a Singapore Exchange filing on Sunday night that its chairman will return to office and resume his duties on Monday.

In August, Mr Ren was granted a leave of absence to expedite an investigation by Chinese government authorities. Yangzijiang said none of its directors, including Mr Ren, was the subject of the investigation.

This came two weeks after global shipping news service TradeWinds reported that Liu Jianguo, described as a "veteran political patron of the shipbuilding industry" and closely linked to Yangzijiang, was being probed for disciplinary violations by Beijing's anti-graft body. Mr Liu was arrested on Dec 20, reported Caixin.

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BT had reported on Nov 18 that Mr Ren is expected to return "before too long", according to his son and Yangzijiang chief executive Ren Letian. The younger Mr Ren assumed his father's role as director in his absence, and told BT that the daily running of the shipbuilder was not impacted.

News of the chairman's impending return had sent the company's stock surging as much as 10 per cent to hit S$1.10 within the first hour of trading the same day. The counter closed at S$1.08 on Nov 18, up 8 per cent.

Yangzijiang has been ranked in the top five shipbuilding companies globally for the past three years based on outstanding order book, according to shipping intelligence service Clarkson Research. Last month, the group reported a 10 per cent drop in third-quarter net profit to 702.3 million Chinese yuan (S$136.3 million), as a weak market dragged down the number of new shipbuilding orders.

Yangzijiang shares last closed at S$1.07 on Friday, down 0.93 per cent or one Singapore cent.

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