A Glimpse At The Market Endgame: How China's (Formerly) Richest Man Crashed His Own Stock When He Tried To Sell

On Wednesday, we reported on what was certainly the biggest market news of the week when in under one second, Chinese solar company Hanergy Thin Film crashed by nearly 50% due to what are still unknown reasons. As a reminder, before its crash and indefinite trading suspension, Hanergy’s market value was higher than all other listed Chinese solar companies combined and six times the value of First Solar (FSLR), the biggest producer of thin-film solar panels.

Aside from the dramatic move, the reason why the wipeout of this tightly held stock was particularly memorable is because it took with it some $14 billion or nearly half of majority owner Li Hejun's $30 billion fortune, who as we reported previously, is China's richest man, having recently overtaken Alibaba's Jack Ma. Or rather was.

A quick tangent into how Li built up his stratospheric paper wealth on very short notice.

As noted above, the bulk of Li's fortune comes from his 80.8% stake in Hanergy, whose market cap had topped at approximately $40 billion, or greater than the market cap  of Sony (SNE) or Twitter (TWTR). Even more notable is that the bulk of the appreciation in the stock was a result of what appears to have been an aggressive buying campaign by none other than Li himself, who as Bloomberg recounts, was the single biggest buyer in the name as it soared since the start of January, becoming "wealthier" (on paper) by buying ever more stock, thus pushing his own net worth every higher!

From April 30, three weeks before the crash:

Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd.’s executive chairman raised his stake in the Chinese solar equipment maker this  month, buying 53.9 million shares as the company’s market value surged.

Li Hejun bought the shares in seven transactions at prices of HK$6.90 to about HK$6.95, with the latest purchase on April 23, according to transaction details filed in statements to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The company closed at a record HK$7.88 on April 23.

Hanergy has surged more than six-fold in the past year to a market value of about $39 billion amid questions about its valuation and revenue.

What is certainly peculiar is that even as Li was aggressively single-handedly pushing the price of the stock, there were many questions about the company's operations. Of note, about 61% of the company’s revenue was sourced from sales it made to its own parent company Hanergy Group, and its affiliates.

The relationship was laid out by Bloomberg as follows: "The publicly traded entity makes factory equipment that produces thin-film solar panels. Closely held Hanergy Group makes the panels and installs them, though it has never disclosed its production output. Hanergy Thin Film also buys PV panels from its parent company to make into finished solar parks."

As the FT reported first 5 months ago, Hanergy "has been racking up enviable revenues largely through sales between its listed subsidiary, HTF, and itself." No wonder the company has been desperate to distract attention from its cooked books, and instead had focused on pure marketing, pitching itself as a company that promises to revolutionize solar power and to become the Apple of green energy.

Perversely, it was on January 28 when the Financial Times first raised questions about the incestuous relationship between the two entities: since then, the stock of Hanergy had risen 86%... until it crashed.

It wasn't just Apple (AAPL): Hanergy needed more buzzwords and tried to be like that other famous "alternative energy" unicorn, Tesla (TSLA): a whole lot of "story" fluff, much hype and no substance. Because lacking from its earnings report was an overall estimate for how much equipment it will ship or install this year, a figure that’s prominent in the reports of panel makers such as Trina Solar (TSL) and Yingli Green Energy (YGE).

There were many other flashing red warnings: Hanergy Thin Film’s receivables surged 86 percent last year to HK$4.3 billion, with the parent company responsible for about half of the outstanding sum.

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Karl Yong 4 years ago Member's comment

It just remind me the CDOs era, however this guy will definitely be prosecuted and potential face the death penalty in China. Question must be raise HKSE and the due diligent effort.

However who are we to criticize, those investment bankers during the CDOs era, selling their client faulty products and take up position against them. The top management made billions, not only free but get every cents they cheated others. Their actions cause millions of people to lose their home, world recession, millions around the world lost their jobs and made all the banks they work face bankruptcy. Cannot imagine, these people were/appointed as Authorities or President advisers. AIG as part of bill out, was force to agreed not to take legal actions against the investment banks and all these devils. I guessed this is the best of America dream, robbed billions of dollars, screwed millions of life, not only walk free but US tax payers had to pick up the tap.

It is even more amazing, some of these devils become head and prof. of the best universities while others play key roles in the government, regulating the financial industry. The most disappointing is Obama, I thought he will make a different, with all his promises, nothing came about, worst he appointed them for the last eight years to make US worse..... FYI a French lady that head the IMF did a better job, at least she pushed to implement what was promised by Obama, she was successful as it is implemented across EC.