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Metals Markets

Tycoon Running a Quarter of China’s Copper Trade Is on the Ropes

He Jinbi’s empire is suffering a liquidity crisis, and the ripple effects may go global.

From a start guarding trains full of metal from thieves on freezing winter nights, He Jinbi built a copper trading house so powerful that it handles one of every four tons imported into China.

A born trader with an infectious sense of humor, the 57-year-old grew Maike Metals International Ltd. through the rough-and-tumble rush for commodities in the early 2000s, to become a key conduit between China’s industrial heartlands and global merchants like Glencore Plc.