China regulator seeks to avoid U.S. delistings of Chinese firms
Chinese authorities are working with U.S. counterparts to prevent Chinese companies being delisted from U.S. stock exchanges, a Chinese regulatory official said on Thursday, as a lengthy dispute about auditing standards rumbles on.
U.S. authorities are moving towards kicking foreign companies off American stock exchanges if their audits fail to meet U.S. standards.
The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) and U.S. policy makers have long complained of a lack of access to audit working papers for U.S.-listed Chinese companies. Citing national security concerns, Chinese authorities have been reluctant to allow overseas regulators to inspect working papers from local accounting firms.
“We don’t think that delisting of Chinese firms from the US market is a good thing either for the companies, for global investors or Chinese-US relations,” Shen Bing, director general of the China Securities Regulatory Commission’s department of international affairs, told a conference in Hong Kong.
“We are working very hard to resolve the auditing issue with U.S. counterparts, the communication is currently smooth and open. There is a risk of delisting of these companies but we are working very hard to prevent it from happening,” he added.
In December 2020, during the last weeks of his administration, President Donald Trump signed a law aimed at removing foreign companies from U.S. exchanges if they failed to comply with American auditing standards for three years in a row.
A map on the organisation’s website showed China as the only jurisdiction that denied the PCAOB “necessary access to conduct oversight”.
Speaking at the same conference, Ashley Alder, CEO of Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission said he feared Sino-U.S. tensions could prevent a solution.
“Sometimes politics can interrupt technical solutions that are sensible and achievable, and I pick up a degree of political attitude within the U.S. establishment that is not necessarily conducive to a better outcome.”
Hong Kong previously faced similar problems with access to mainland China audit working papers, but Alder said the SFC’s relationship with the CSRC and a 2019 agreementhad helped resolve these.
Hong Kong has benefitted from the Sino-U.S. spat, as a string of U.S.-listed Chinese companies have carried out secondary listings in the city in recent years, partly as a back up in case the companies are deslisted from the Nasdaq or NYSE, say market participants.
The Hong Kong stock exchange, last week, confirmed it would proceed with rule changes to make it easier for overseas-listed Chinese companies to carry out secondary listings, and for companies to change a Hong Kong secondary listing to a primary one.
Authors: Scott Murcoch, Alun John, Reuters