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An Interview with Hu Fulin, Chairman of Center Group

an interview with hu fulin chairman of center group

Hu Fulin, chairman of Zhejiang Center Group, returned to Wenzhou last night after staying in U.S. for 20 days. At 11 pm last night, Hu accepted the journalist’s interview for the first time after the runaway disturbance.

The disturbance of Center Group began on September 21, when the news exploded on the Internet that Hu Fulin, chairman of Zhejiang Center Group, the biggest spectacle maker in Wenzhou, had fled to U.S. with huge loans, which has attracted great attention of the whole society.

"Confidence keeps fears away.” Though a bit tired, Hu, at the center of the disturbance, stayed calm and talked honestly. In the 20 days away from Wenzhou, where was he? Why did he walk away then? Why does he come back? How are his company’s debts? Where will Center Group go in the future? During the interview, Hu answered related questions one by one.

Journalist: As for your leaving Wenzhou, there are many rumors in the society. Why did you leave then?
Hu: My going to U.S. then was a temporary decision. The departing flight was on September 20 and the returning is on October 5. At that time, there was some difficulty in our company’s fund chain, so I wanted to seek help from friends in U.S. and meanwhile communicate with some of American clients since they owed some debts to our company. After coming down from the plane, a friend told me that the rumor of my fleeing had spread in Wenzhou, and those banks and creditors had gone to our company for debt repayment, so he suggested that I stay in U.S. for some time to seek for possible solutions. In face of the incident, we were lack of experience to cope with it.

Journalist: Did you stay in U.S. the whole 20 days? What did you do? Did you notice those domestic reports and comments on you?
Hu: I stayed in New York those days. My friends advised me not to view news on the Internet, which may mess up my mind, so later I did not notice much on the Internet. However, I did, through some other channels, keep in touch with the management of our company to learn about our company. During the time when I left, only the headquarters and our solar business were closed and other companies still kept running.

Journalist: When you stayed away, what was the most worrying?
Hu: What worried me most was that our affiliated companies might be affected, so I always kept in touch with them. If Premier Wenzhou had not come to Wenzhou and our government had not given such an encouraging statement, I guess some of our affiliated companies might have collapsed, since their fund was very tight then.

Journalist: When you left, what debt burdened you most to make the biggest difficulty for your company?
Hu: Only dozens of millions Yuan, which were due immediately. Meanwhile, it took the banks a certain time to approve the loan renewal, which made the fund chain of our company dangerous. Actually, on the previous day before I left, we were repaying our bank loans.

Journalist: How are the assets of your company at present? Are you insolvent? Has your company struck down by mutual assurance among different companies?
Hu: Before the incident, we were solvent and able to sustain. However, the banks and those non-governmental creditors were demanding their money back everyday under the tight credit, so our confidence was lost. Meanwhile, those companies with mutual assurance with our company shouldered great pressure. So, when the news that I fled came out, I was very afraid and those related companies were also burdened with pressure from banks with great fears.

Journalist: Is the rumor true that your company owes 2 billion Yuan’s debts?
Hu: I am also wondering where the figure was from. I guess that people added up all loans of our group, and also those affiliated companies, the companies our company has a share in, and the companies whose loans are mutually secured. Actually, I have not calculated the total by myself. Since there may be dozens of affiliated companies involved, including their all secured loans and undue payments to suppliers, the coverage is indeed too wide.

Journalist: If you had chosen not to return and the company had gone with your efforts of many years, would you feel sad?
Hu: Of course. It is not easy to run the company for dozens of years. When I was away, our company was safe enough, our management still stayed and hundreds of our employees showed their willingness to return at call, which I do greatly appreciate. Currently, I plan to recover the production of glasses, since our orders have been scheduled till the next year.

Journalist: How was the decision to return made later?
Hu: When I was in U.S., my heart was still in Wenzhou. I hoped to be back when the situation was getting better. Meanwhile, Wenzhou Government, Ouhai District, the association of industry and commerce as well as the spectacle association kept in touch with me and showed their willingness to help. Also, those affiliated companies and creditors communicated with me frequently and hoped that I could be back for reorganization of our company to solve the problems. In the past days after Premier Wenzhou visited Wenzhou, the whole trend has changed greatly compared with the time when I left. Both the government and the industrial associations support my coming back and the banks also state that they will continue to support our company. So, I feel there are backings behind me. Previously, I fought singly, but now I have a lot of people supporting me. In this way, I changed my mind and came back. Confidence keeps fears away.

Journalist: According to your experience, as for those enterprises on the way of transformation like Center Group, what support do you expect most?
Hu: Our entrepreneurs have been seeking transformation in recently years and we hope to set foot on those high added-value industries with high profit. During the transformation in these two years, we have a high demand for funds to be invested solar energy technologies, brand promotion of our glasses, management of our chain stores as well as the building of our management group, which have cost us a lot of money. If the government can offer some policy supports in our transformation and banks can give continuous fund support to us, we have the confidence to carry on. Or else, the transformation will fall halfway.

Journalist: What is the basic idea to solve the problem of debts?
Hu: The whole process of assets reorganization can not be called bankruptcy or liquidation. The reorganization with the help of our associations and the government can help to solve the current problem of debts. As for the detailed figure of our debts, it is still being calculated and our fund is being checked.

Journalist: The government is also taking a series of measures to build up confidence. After you come back, what is your plan to reorganize your company?
Hu: The reorganization this time is guided by Wenzhou Association of Industry and Commerce with the support from our spectacle association. The reorganization plan is still under discussion. Whether to divide our solar energy business, spectacle business and chain store business still needs to be determined. Of course, if other companies can help with the reorganization, it will also be a good choice. In addition, some creditors have also called to express their interest in investing our company. As for the details of the reorganization, since I just came back yesterday, we are still discussing specific implementations.

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