Asia Markets

Hong Kong is considering 'dual-class' share listings for non-tech firms, says official

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Key Points
  • Hong Kong is considering whether to allow non-tech companies to list using the "dual-class shares" framework, said Christopher Hui, the city's secretary for financial services and the treasury.
  • The Hong Kong exchange in 2018 amended its rules to allow companies from "emerging and innovative sectors" to list with dual-class shares or weighted voting rights.
  • Hui also said the city's regulator and exchange operator have been tasked to study how Hong Kong can implement SPAC listings.
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Hong Kong is considering whether to allow non-tech companies to list on the city's stock exchange using the "dual-class shares" framework, Christopher Hui, Hong Kong's secretary for financial services and the treasury, told CNBC on Tuesday.

A dual-class structure, also known as weighted voting rights, allows companies to issue different classes of shares. Typically, one class of shares has more voting rights than the other — a framework favored by many tech firms as it gives founders and insiders more control.

The Hong Kong exchange in 2018 amended its rules to allow companies from "emerging and innovative sectors" to list using the dual-class framework. That has helped the city to attract major Chinese tech companies, including Xiaomi and Alibaba, to list on the Hong Kong stock market.

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The city has been among the world's top markets for listings over the last few years.

In 2020, the Hong Kong stock exchange saw 154 new listings that raised $51.6 billion, according to data compiled by consultancy PwC. Prominent Chinese companies that made their debut in the city last year include e-commerce giant JD.com and gaming company NetEase.

Hui said he's "very positive" about the outlook for public listings in Hong Kong, and expects the momentum in the last few years to continue.

So far this year, more Chinese firms have listed in Hong Kong, including Tiktok rival Kuaishou, tech giant Baidu and streaming company Bilibili.

SPAC listings in Hong Kong

Stock exchanges in Hong Kong and other Asian cities are considering allowing the listings of special purpose acquisition companies or SPACs. They are "blank check" companies that raise money through IPOs with the intention of merging with or acquiring an existing private firm in order to take it public.

SPACs have gained much attention in the past year, with an increasing number of companies choosing to go public in the U.S. using such a method.   

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Bloomberg reported Monday that Hong Kong is getting ready a SPAC listing framework by June to gather public feedback, and is targeting the first such deal by the end of this year.

Asked whether the framework is on track for release, the Hong Kong official said the city's regulator and exchange operator have been tasked to study how Hong Kong can implement SPAC listings.

"So we have to make sure that while on the one hand, we are taking advantage of this new trend to grow our market, yet at the same time have our investors duly protected."

Clarification: This story has been updated to remove an inaccurately spoken quote.