Chairman of Chinese Firm About to Buy Israel’s Phoenix Goes Missing

Bloomberg News reports that Fosun Group’s management has lost touch with Guo Guangchang.

Bloomberg

The chairman of Fosun Group, the Chinese conglomerate that has agreed to buy Israeli insurer Phoenix and has expressed interest in buying Israeli gas fields, has gone missing, Bloomberg News reported Thursday, citing China’s Caixin magazine.

Managers at the closely held holding company said they had “lost contact” with Guo Guangchang, the 48-year-old founder and chairman of the group. The company is “handling” the situation, Fosun Group Vice Chairman Liang Xinjun said in a text message when asked about Guo’s whereabouts.

Fosun Group, which owns Club Med and bought a stake in Cirque du Soleil as well as interests in insurance, real estate, pharmaceutical and commodities firms, signed a memorandum of understanding to buy Phoenix from Delek Group in January. It is awaiting approval from Israel’s insurance regulators.

The sale is critical for Delek, the holding company controlled by Yitzhak Tshuva, which has been divesting assets to focus on its core energy business, namely its stakes in the Tamar and Leviathan natural gas fields.

Under the terms of the deal, Fosun Group is due to buy between 42% and 52.3% of Phoenix at a company valuation of 3.3 billion shekels ($853 million), a sum that was marked down from an original 3.7 billion shekels.

Sources close to the sale said Fosun Group had received positive indications from Finance Ministry officials that it would receive an insurance license, which is not surprising since about a third of the group’s portfolio is insurance companies.

In addition, Reuters reported this month that the Chinese group was interested in buying the tiny Karish and Tanin gas fields from Delek. Fosun Pharma has invested in Check-Cap, an Israeli startup developing technology for noninvasive colon-cancer screening and in 2013 bought Israel’s Alma Lasers. In September it agreed to buy the cosmetics company Ahava.

Bloomberg said Liang’s mobile phone went unanswered. Guo was last reported seen in Shanghai at noon local time Thursday, Caixin cited an unnamed Fosun executive as saying. Subsequent calls to that person’s phone went unanswered.

Guo is China’s 17th richest man with a net worth of $5.6 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and has sought to break into overseas markets. The Phoenix deal is one of 16 worth a combined 29 billion yuan ($4.5 billion) Bloomberg said he has done this year.