Hong Kong removes requirement to flag China risk in listing applications

By Reuters

Hong Kong’s stock exchange will no longer require companies to spell out China-related business risks in listing applications from Tuesday, in a move that aligns the city more closely with disclosure changes ordered by Beijing.

In its latest revision to listing rules, the bourse repealed a whole section focusing on risks from China’s policies and its business and legal environment, according to a consultation conclusion paper published on July 21.

China’s securities watchdog published updated rules for offshore listings in February and Hong Kong followed with its own consultation on proposed changes a week later.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd introduced the changes to “align the requirements” for issuers, taking into account “recent changes in Mainland China regulatory framework”, it said in a release on July 21.

In a summary of rule revisions, the exchange didn’t list the removal of China risk disclosures as a major change.

“Legacy rules had split out specific requirements for People’s Republic of China-incorporated issuers, but the recent consultation has sought to align requirements for all overseas-incorporated companies,” a spokesperson for the exchange said in an email statement.

The exchange believes there has been “no roll back” in the level of scrutiny the listing rules require, with China-incorporated issuers subject to the same disclosure rules as other issuers, the spokesperson added.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission on July 20 met with local lawyers and asked them to refrain from including negative descriptions of China’s policies or its business and legal environment in companies’ listing prospectuses, sources told Reuters.

The regulator warned failure to do so could cost them a regulatory green light for IPOs.

A large number of Chinese companies make their public market debut either in Hong Kong or in the United States, and global investors pay close attention to disclosures made in their IPO prospectuses to weigh risks and prospects.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month directed Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to disclose more details about the role of the Chinese government in their operations and the impact of a 2021 law banning the import of goods from China’s Uyghur region.

Hong Kong’s current listing rules stipulate issuers have to offer a summary of risks of “the relevant laws and regulations”, “the political structure and economic environment”, “foreign exchange controls and exchange rate risk” of China, as well as other specific risks of doing business in China.

The amended rules will not include any of the above as a requirement for listing disclosure.

The majority of Chinese companies’ offshore listing proposals have been filed with the Hong Kong exchange since the country new offshore listing regime came into effect on March 31, but few of them have got Beijing’s nod to start raising funds.

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