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Yao Ming marches into PE market

By Shi Jing (Chinadaily.com.cn)

10:59, August 21, 2012

A little star power seemed to be badly needed to revive the Shanghai Composite Index on Monday, when the gauge closed at 2,112.20 points.

That final number was largely the result of a daily unilateral trade volume of 38.98 billion yuan ($6.1 billion), the lowest to be seen this year.

Also on Monday, news came out that the Chinese basketball star Yao Ming had made a substantial investment in the private equity industry last year in a deal that received little, if any, publicity.

In July, 2011, a team of investors including Yao Ming took over Chongqing Yitai Equity Investment Fund Management Co Ltd and changed the company's name to Hongyuan Equity Investment Fund. Yitai then had as much as 10 million yuan in registered capital.

Important members of the investment team were given high positions at Hongyuan. Zhang Mingji, Yao Ming's broker, for instance, became the chairman of the company. Xu Weimin, a professional manager, was appointed general manager there, and Song Xuanhan, another professional manager, was appointed deputy general manager, a source familiar with the matter recently said.

The source also said Hongyuan is likely to invest in Yinhai Leasing, a company under the administration of the Chongqing Municipal Government's State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.

Yao's adventures into the capital market started as early as 2006. Together with his broker, Yao invested $3 million in Top100.cn, the largest music website to provide genuine music products in China and the first of its kind that is likely to go public.

Meanwhile, Yao's investment into Beijing UniStrong, a professional group company specializing in global navigation satellite systems, does not have such bright prospects. The company has seen its results decrease ever since it went public on April 2, 2010. In the first six months of this year, the company's shareholders incurred a loss of between 24 million yuan and 26 million yuan. Consequently, the value of Yao's stake in the company has decreased from 45 million to 12.27 million yuan.

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