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Angry Chinese Investors Capture Head Of Metals Exchange In Predawn Hotel Raid

Meet Shan Jiuliang. 

He’s the head of Fanya Metals Exchange and he was captured in a daring predawn raid in Shanghai on Saturday. 

As FT notes, "Fanya is a forum for trading minor metals like indium and bismuth that has also functioned as a shadow banking conduit — not only leveraging metal deposited with the exchange as collateral for loans, but offering high interest investment products to retail investors."

If that sounds familiar to you, it should. Just last week in "The 8 Trillion Black Swan: Is China's Shadow Banking System About To Collapse?," we took a fresh look at the dizzying array of wealth management products and collective trust products that are, together, a CNY17.2 trillion industry in China. Summarizing a (very) long and convoluted story, WMPs are marketed to investors through banks as a high yielding alternative to savings deposits. Investors aren’t often aware of exactly what they’re investing in or how risky it might be or that in many cases, issuers borrow short to lend long resulting in a perpetual case of maturity mismatch. 

"A key issue is whether the presumption of implicit guarantees is upheld or the authorities allow failing WMPs to default and investors to experience losses arising from these products," the RBA said in a report, to which we responded that in the event investors are forced to take losses, "the key issue is what those investors will do next."

Well, now we know.

First they will stage angry protests and then, if their money is not returned to them in about a month, they will travel from all corners of the country, stake out a hotel, kidnap the issuer of the WMP and haul him away to jail. Here’s FT with the story:

The head of a Chinese exchange that trades minor metals was captured by angry investors in a dawn raid and turned over to Shanghai police, as the investors attempted to force the authorities to investigate why their funds have been frozen.

 

Investors have been protesting for weeks after the Fanya Metals Exchange in July ceased making payments on financial investment products. The exchange, based in the southwestern city of Kunming, bought and stockpiled minor metals such as indium and bismuth, while also offering high interest, highly-liquid investment products from its offices in Shanghai and its financing branch in Kunming.

 

Some investors flew in from faraway cities to join hundreds more surrounding a luxury hotel in Shanghai before dawn on Saturday. When Fanya founder Shan Jiuliang attempted to check out, they manhandled him into a car before delivering him to the nearest police station. Shanghai police took Mr Shan into custody and promised to work with local authorities in Yunnan province to investigate what has happened to investors’ money. They later released him without charge.

 

The demonstrations in Shanghai and Kunming and the exchange’s unusual accumulation of several years’ supply of some metals have so far failed to attract much public attention from regulators. A report by the local regulator identifying the exchange as one of the bigger investment risks in Yunnan was redacted to remove reference to Fanya late last year.

 

The exchange began to experience liquidity problems this spring. Fanya is estimated to hold several years’ supply of minor metals used in some high-tech and military applications, which it purchased at above-market prices. The exchange’s travails are pressuring prices for some of these metals, as traders anticipate it will have to sell its stockpile.

 

The exchange, which has acknowledged it has problems, is backed by several of China’s minor metals miners. It has said it has found a buyer but won’t identify the company. Mr Shan “was deceiving us. He admitted to us that there is no buyout group,” said one disgruntled investor surnamed Gu, who participated in the rainy early morning raid.

 

Mr Shan has been holding regular meetings with exchange backers since problems first surfaced this spring and was on the way to Guangzhou for a business trip when captured.

As you can see, we are not at all joking when we contend that any move by China to allow for defaults and permit market forces to play a larger role in determining which investments eventually sour is likely to be met with a severe public backlash, especially for something like WMPs where investors believe they may have been deceived. 

If Shan Jiuliang's bad weekend is any indication of what's in store for the Politburo once the PBoC loses complete control of the stock market, managing the yuan and restoring economic growth may be the least of Xi Jinping's worries.