China’s Leshi votes for new board as creditors protest parent LeEco

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HONG KONG (Reuters) – An extraordinary shareholder meeting for the listed unit of indebted Chinese tech group LeEco ended amid protest from creditors on Monday and without the election of a chairman to replace embattled founder Jia Yueting.

Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corp Beijing called the meeting to elect three board members after Jia, its largest shareholder, resigned the chairmanship to focus on LeEco’s car business in the United States.

Jia’s LeEco has been fighting a worsening cash crunch brought about by the overly rapid expansion of a conglomerate whose businesses include film production, consumer electronics and electric vehicle manufacturing.

Around two dozen people protested outside Leshi’s meeting venue in Beijing before police arrived to control the situation, showed video footage in local media.

The people said they were suppliers of LeEco’s mobile unit, which is not part of Leshi. They said they were owed 330 million yuan ($48.75 million) and chanted slogans demanding payment.

Jia pledged to repay LeEco’s debt in a statement earlier this month.

LeEco’s woes increased last week after it and a subsidiary were sued by U.S. television set maker Vizio Inc over a collapsed $2 billion takeover, according to U.S. media, with Vizio seeking $110 million in damages over claims about its financial health.

Neither LeEco nor Vizio immediately responded to Reuters requests for comment on the matter.

LeEco’s Leshi counts Sunac China Holdings Ltd as its second-largest shareholder. The property developer is widely expected to eventually take control of Leshi having agreed in January to invest 15 billion yuan into various LeEco units.

Addressing Leshi shareholders at Monday’s meeting as a board director candidate, Sunac Chairman Sun Hongbin spoke of potential collaboration with the entertainment business of conglomerate Wanda Group. Sunac last week agreed to buy most of Wanda’s hotel portfolio for $9.3 billion.

“Anything is possible,” Sun said, according to a meeting transcript. “Next, we hope to have deep collaboration in films but haven’t discussed details yet. It is easy for (Wanda chairman) Wang (Jianlin): [He] is upbeat; the chance of collaboration is high.”

Sun also said LeEco’s Le Vision Pictures is currently subject to an asset freeze preventing any action at the moment.

LeEco and Jia recently had assets frozen by a court following a bank complaint of late payments.

Leshi is expected to hold another meeting to elect a chairman of the board at a later date.

Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Editing by Christopher Cushing