Shares linked to missing China billionaire slump

In this Dec. 2013, photo, Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese-born Canadian billionaire talks to reporter outside the International Finance Centre in Hong Kong. Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of Xiao reportedly taken away from his Hong Kong hotel by mainland police in a case that could rekindle concerns about overreach by Chinese law enforcement in the semiautonomous city. (Next Magazine via AP)

HONG KONG — Stocks linked to a missing Chinese billionaire slumped Friday despite his company's reassurances that it is business as usual.

Three companies in which Xiao Jianhua's Tomorrow Group has sizeable stakes tumbled on the first day of trading after China's weeklong Lunar New Year holiday.

Cement maker Xishui Strong Year and Baotou Huazi Industry, which makes beet sugar and electronic components, both fell by the maximum 10 percent daily limit in trading on Shanghai's stock exchange.

Another firm, chemical maker Baotou Tomorrow Technology, dropped 5 percent, the maximum for stocks at risk of being delisted.

Xiao's whereabouts are still unknown after unconfirmed reports started circulating this week that he had been seized by Chinese police officers at his room at Hong Kong's Four Seasons Hotel and taken across the border to the mainland.

Hong Kong police said Wednesday in response to inquiries about Xiao that the "subject" had crossed into the mainland on Jan. 27 and that they have asked their mainland counterparts for more information.

Production and business activities at Tomorrow and its subsidiaries are "normal," that company said Thursday said in a statement posted on its account on the messaging app WeChat.

"Thank you to friends from all parts of the community for their concern and love for Mr. Xiao Jianhua and the company," it said.

Earlier statements in Xiao's name on WeChat, which have since been deleted, and in a Hong Kong newspaper ad added to the confusion. They said he was out of the country for treatment and would return soon.

It's unclear why Xiao might be targeted. His disappearance follows that of five booksellers who vanished only to turn up later in the mainland, reviving concerns that Beijing is eroding the city's autonomy and rule of law.

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