Alibaba appoints two independent directors as it seeks Hong Kong primary listing

  • Alibaba has named two new independent directors, Albert Ng Kong-ping and Irene Lee Yun-lien, bringing the number of women on the board to three
  • The move comes as the e-commerce giant seeks to elevate its status on the Hong Kong bourse, broadening its access to mainland investors

Alibaba Group Holding has increased the representation of women and independent directors on its board, after adding two directors ahead of its application to make Hong Kong the primary listing venue of its stock.

Irene Lee Yun-lien, chairwoman of Hysan Development Company Limited, and Albert Ng Kong-ping, former chairman of Ernst & Young China, were appointed to Alibaba’s board, effective on Thursday, according to a company statement.

“Irene and Albert are both respected leaders with invaluable understanding and experience in global markets including mainland China and Hong Kong,” Daniel Zhang Yong, chairman and chief executive officer of Alibaba, said in a statement. “I believe Alibaba will greatly benefit from their insight, especially in light of our plans for dual-primary listing in Hong Kong to further broaden and diversify our investor base.”

Lee’s appointment brings the number of female Alibaba board members to three. The move is a nod to the push since January by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) for public companies to enhance their gender equity and representation, especially at the executive and senior management tiers.

Following these appointments, the company’s board consists of twelve directors, including seven independent directors. This includes Chee Hwa Tung, an independent director who, at the age of 85, announced that he would retire when his current term ends after this year’s shareholder meeting.

With the push for a primary listing, Alibaba is seeking to elevate its status on Asia’s third-largest bourse to gain access to a transborder investment channel with mainland China to widen and diversify its investor base. Last week, the Hangzhou-based company was added to a growing list of Chinese companies that face potential delisting from US stock exchanges.

“As Alibaba applies to add Hong Kong as another primary listing venue, I hope my experiences in the capital market of Hong Kong and Greater China can be applied to the company’s pursuit of excellence,” said Ng, who currently serves as an independent non-executive director and chairman of the audit committee of a number of public companies, including Ping An Insurance Company of China, Beijing Airdoc Technology, and China International Capital Corporation.

Lee has been the executive chairman of Hysan Development, a company listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, since March 2012. Previously, Lee was an executive director of Citicorp Investment Bank in New York, London and Sydney.

“The focus of my career has been to create a deep connection with consumers by curating top of mind physical destinations, where people come to work, shop and play,” Lee said. “I am delighted to join Alibaba, with its mission to make it easier to do business with anyone, anywhere.”

The percentage of women directors on the boards of Hong Kong-listed companies has increased to 15.8 per cent over the past four years, according to a report from the Hong Kong stock exchange. About a third of issuers have more than one female on their boards, while more than 27 per cent have no women at all, the report said.

Author: Tracy Qu, SCMP

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