HK regulator pushing to vet IPOs more actively

HONG KONG • Hong Kong's securities regulator may have failed to win public support for a larger oversight role in the city's stock listings, but that does not mean it is backing down.

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) is seen pushing ahead with efforts to vet initial public offerings more actively, despite scrapping proposed changes to the listing process last Friday after a public consultation showed opposition from brokerages and business leaders.

The SFC's proposals, first announced in June last year, were part of its attempt to build a consensus on the need for more supervision. But the SFC already had broad leeway to influence the IPO process, and it has exercised its powers more frequently since the start of this year.

Using what SFC chief executive Ashley Alder has described as a new "front-loaded" approach, the regulator has blocked IPOs, questioned new issue applicants directly and warned listing sponsors to follow the rules.

Hong Kong's IPO vetting process has come under increased scrutiny after a series of high profile corporate blow-ups, including China Forestry Holdings and China Metal Recycling Holdings, which both delisted amid investigations into company misconduct.

Hong Kong also has powerful business and financial services constituencies that have lobbied against increased supervision.

"The SFC tends to be very prudent and not receptive to new ideas, and that may deprive Hong Kong from opportunities," said Mr Mike Wong, CEO of The Chamber of Hong Kong Listed Companies, which opposed the proposed changes to the listing process.

Under Hong Kong's existing system, the exchange administers IPOs via a committee of finance and legal professionals that reviews them for approval. The now dead proposal envisaged transferring some of the group's responsibilities to a new six-person Listing Regulatory Committee.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2017, with the headline 'HK regulator pushing to vet IPOs more actively'. Print Edition | Subscribe