The Shandong Sunrise Group, which has filed for bankruptcy. Photo: Baidu
The Shandong Sunrise Group, which has filed for bankruptcy. Photo: Baidu

Shandong Sunrise Group, a major soybean importer that was, for years, China’s 500th biggest company, has become the first Chinese firm to file for bankruptcy as the Sino-American trade war heats up.

The cross-Pacific battle was the last straw for the company owned by Shao Zhongyi, once the richest man in Shandong province according to the Nihon Keizai Shinbun newspaper.

The Japanese news outlet said Sunrise Group was hit by a double whammy this year: the rising price of crude oil, and more recently, the rising price of imported soybeans as a result of the ongoing trade war. It had previously been suffering from falling demand for pig feed.

Last week, Sunrise filed for bankruptcy with a court in the county of Juxian in Shandong after failing to repay its debts.

The company’s collapse shocked many as Shao Zhongyi had built his soybean empire into the largest private-run soybean enterprise in China in only two years.

First started as a plastics company in 1994, Shao founded Sunrise Group in 2003 as a petrochemical company. In 2006, he was at the center of a vegetable oil sector consolidation and stepped into the soybean business.

For seven consecutive years, it was China’s 500th largest private enterprise. In 2006, Shao himself was the richest man in Shandong, and was ranked the 230th richest man in China by Forbes; his company had a turnover of US$11.1 billion.

But latterly, Sunrise faced capital shortages and sought local government help with short-term loans to pay staff. In 2017 it was sued by local finance-leasing companies. Court proceedings exposed the company’s tight financial situation, leading to its demise.

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