Corporate governance of Hong Kong firms better now, survey found
The poll of 121 listed firms finds standards higher than in 2009 as more questions asked; independent directors told to act responsibly
Corporate governance has improved since 2009, according to a survey of 121 listed companies by the Hong Kong Institute of Directors and Hong Kong Baptist University.
The average corporate governance score was 71.91 on a scale of 100, the same as in the previous survey in 2009.
"The score has been more or less the same. But if you look at the content, this year has higher standards than 2009," said Stephen Cheung Yan-leung, the dean of the business school at Baptist University.
"Corporate governance standards in general have improved over 2009. It didn't show in the score because we asked more questions."
The recent survey asked 151 questions, compared with 121 in the previous survey. The higher number of questions raised the standards of corporate governance being tested, Cheung said.
Typically, there is a strong correlation between good corporate governance and a high share price. But this year's survey found no such correlation. In other words, firms with high market capitalisation are just as likely to have good corporate governance as poor corporate governance.
In contrast, the previous survey found a positive correlation between corporate governance and market value, where the better the corporate governance, the higher the company's market valuation, said Cheung.
The reason the survey results was skewed this year was because of two entertainment companies that recently listed. Both had high market valuations but neither had fully put their corporate governance policies in place, Cheung said. He declined to say whether the two were gaming companies.
Cheung called for more responsible behaviour on the part of independent non-executive directors. He cited as an example of one unnamed person who held independent non-executive directorships in 17 listed firms.
"If you take 17 independent non-executive director jobs, how much time can you spend in one company? Independent non-executive directors should spend some time in one company on its strategic direction, improving its operations and corporate governance," he said.
This year's winners of the directors of the year awards, organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Directors, include mainland consumer goods conglomerate China Resources Enterprise in the Hang Seng Index category.
In the non-Hang Seng Index category, ARA Asset Management (Prosperity) was the best board.
The best executive director was Yim Fung, the chairman and chief executive officer of mainland securities firm Guotai Junan International Holdings.
● Bank of China
● China Cosco
● China Life
● MTR Corp
SOURCES: HONG KONG INSTITUTE OF DIRECTORS, HONG KONG BAPTIST UNIVERSITY