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Emerging Europe finds a price in China’s cash

The disappearance of the chair of CEFC China Energy throws doubts on its European acquisition spree.


When CEFC China Energy, a Chinese conglomerate with big ambitions and apparently bottomless pockets, began pouring money into the Czech Republic in 2015, the country’s president was delighted. 

Milos Zeman, an enthusiastic supporter of regimes with more cash than accountability, hailed CEFC’s $1.5 billion Czech spending spree – which included a brewery and a football club, as well as stakes in real estate, media and finance firms – as the dawn of a new era for central Europe. He even appointed the firm’s chairman, Ye Jianming, as an honorary adviser.

That decision has not aged well. In early March, Ye became the latest tycoon to go missing after apparently falling foul of the Chinese authorities. Three weeks later, his fate and that of his firm are still shrouded in mystery. Almost the only thing known for certain about either was that CEFC had withdrawn a bid to increase its stake in Czech financial group J&T from 9.9% to 50%. 

No word was forthcoming, however, on the fate of CEFC’s largest acquisition in emerging Europe. Last September, the firm agreed to pay $9 billion to Glencore and the Qatar Investment Authority for their 14% stake in Russian energy giant Rosneft, acquired in late 2016. 

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