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Hunter Biden defends role with Chinese PE firm on ABC

Over the past few weeks, President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked Hunter Biden for his links to Ukraine and China. Here’s what we know about Biden’s Chinese PE firm.

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Over the past few weeks, President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked Hunter Biden for serving on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, alleging that the son of Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden was corrupt along with his father. Over the weekend, Trump took the attacks up a notch, using Twitter to assail Hunter Biden for his ties to Chinese private equity firm BHR Partners, where he had served as a director.

On Sunday, Hunter Biden announced he would step down from his role at BHR by the end of October and separately pledged to cease any overseas business dealings if his father is elected president in 2020. He already stepped down from Burisma’s board in April after a five-year term.

Biden expressed some level of regret for his involvement in Ukraine but denied wrongdoing for his business dealings in an interview that appeared Tuesday on ABC.

“In retrospect, look, I think that it was poor judgment on my part,” he said. “When I look back on it ... (I) know I did nothing wrong at all. However, was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is ... a swamp in many ways? Yeah.”

“I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father,” Biden added. “That’s where I made my mistake. So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”

Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry for a July telephone conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in which he asked Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden’s role in getting former Ukrainian general prosecutor Viktor Shokin fired while Hunter Biden worked for Burisma in 2015. There’s been no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden, yet it’s plagued the Biden campaign as Trump has continued to lob allegations.

And those allegations eventually expanded to include BHR, which like many Chinese private equity firms, is difficult to track and likely is connected with the country’s Communist government.

Founded in the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone in 2013, the firm consists of the cross-border investment arm of Bohai Industrial Investment Fund, with an ownership structure that involves Chinese financial institutions such as the Bank of China, plus a network of US investment funds and advisory firm shareholders. Related: Biden reportedly joined the firm when he purchased a 10% stake for $425,000. But in his interview with ABC, he claimed he’d never been paid for his work. Trump and lawyer Rudy Giuliani have claimed that Biden received $1.5 billion, perhaps for a PE fund.

“Nobody ever paid me $1.5 billion,” Biden said. “And if they had, I wouldn’t be doing this interview.”

As for where it invests, BHR seeks to take a majority control of companies in a range of industries including high-end manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, energy, environmental tech and consumer goods. The firm claims to focus on making cross-border investments, though it appears that most of the deals have taken place in China. Banker Jonathan Li is listed as the founder.

The firm’s most notable US investment came in 2015, when it teamed with AVIC Auto to acquire Henniges Automotive, a maker of soundproofing solutions for high-end vehicles, from Littlejohn & Co. in a deal that valued the Detroit-based company at roughly $500 million. As part of the transaction, BHR purchased a 49% stake, with AVIC, a Chinese aircraft company, holding the other 51%.

Two years later, BHR acquired a stake in Tenke Fungurume, a mining company in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for around $1.14 billion, through a holding company owned by Canada-based Lundin Mining. The firm also gained notoriety for backing some of the country’s most valuable startups, including Uber rival Didi Chuxing and Megvii, which offers facial recognition technology used by the Chinese government.

Even with Hunter Biden’s decision to resign, the firm might be receiving even more attention if Joe Biden ultimately wins the Democratic nomination.

Featured image via flowgraph/iStock/Getty Images Plus

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    Written by Adam Lewis
    Adam Lewis was a financial writer covering private equity for PitchBook. He covered dealmaking, company and investor news for the PitchBook newsletter and blogs about the intersection of private equity and politics. A graduate of the WSU’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Adam was previously a sportswriter covering the Mariners and Seahawks.
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