Hong Kong government official backs regulator in market listing reform debate
The Hong Kong Government has for the first time joined the heated debate over controversial market listing reforms by voicing support for proposals that would give the Securities and Futures Commission more influence in the listing process.
Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung said on Monday that the opposition “may be a result of misunderstanding about the content of the proposals”.
“The proposed reform would not change the basic structure of the listing regime in Hong Kong but it would only streamline the current process. The reform is only aimed at clarifying the policy making process,” Chan said on the sidelines of a public event.
Chan said under the current structure the SFC has always had the ultimate power to decide on any listing policies suggested by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, operator of the city’s stock exchange. The new proposal would allow the SFC and HKEX to have a single platform to discuss listing policies at an earlier stage.
“We would listen to the market response to the proposal. What we want to see is a reform plan that can help improve the competitiveness of Hong Kong, to attract more companies to list here and to enhance investor’s protection,” he said.
The continuing three-month consultation is aimed at revamping the listing process. Under the proposals, a listing regulatory committee and a listing policy committee would be established, with equal representation from the SFC and HKEX, effectively involving the SFC in the listing process at an earlier stage. At present, HKEX and a listing committee approve new listings and set policies, while the SFC grants approval in the final stage.
Chan’s remarks put the government on the side of the SFC which wants to see the reform plan go ahead to enhance market quality.
However, there are strong voices of opposition, with HKEX director Vincent Lee, who is also a stockbroker, saying over the weekend that he is totally opposed the reform. Lee said it would give the SFC power to kill off some listing applications and to crack down on plans for the exchange to consult the market over listing reform.
Chamber of Hong Kong Listed Companies vice-chairman Lo Ka-shui, who publicly slammed the proposals last month as giving too much power to the SFC, also warned that they “may kill off the listing market”.