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SEC adds over 80 Chinese firms, including, NetEase, and NIO, to list of companies to be booted from Wall Street

May 5, 2022, 6:25 AM UTC

Some of China’s biggest companies are now at risk of being booted off U.S. exchanges if they don’t comply with disclosure regulations.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission added more than 80 companies to its provisional list of companies that face delisting in three years if they don’t grant U.S. regulators access to their books.

The additions include some of China’s most prominent tech companies, like e-commerce company, video game publisher NetEase, video platform Bilibili, agriculture-focused e-commerce platform Pinduoduo, and electric-car maker NIO. The added companies have until May 25 to dispute the SEC’s classification.

The roster of U.S.-listed companies now provisionally or conclusively highlighted for possible delisting now numbers over 120, including other big names like Li Auto, Baidu, and Yum China Holdings. In total, about 250 Chinese companies are listed on U.S. exchanges, with a combined market capitalization of over $1 trillion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The SEC’s move is the latest salvo in a fight between U.S. and Chinese regulators over access to the financial records of U.S.-listed Chinese companies.

Technically, Chinese companies are supposed to let U.S. regulators audit their books. Beijing has long denied access to U.S. inspectors, citing national security concerns. Until now, the U.S. has allowed Chinese companies to remain on American exchanges despite their failure to comply with U.S. disclosure requirements.

In December 2020, the U.S. Congress passed, with bipartisan support, the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act stipulating that any company that failed to open its books to regulators within three years must delist.

After the SEC announced its initial list of targeted companies in early April, China’s securities regulator offered to change its rules to give U.S. regulators greater access—though a Chinese company would still need to get explicit approval from Beijing, as well as highlight possible “state secrets” and “sensitive information.”

Despite Beijing’s initial concession, the SEC is pushing for full compliance.

Several Chinese companies already have left or are planning to leave U.S. exchanges. China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom exited the New York Stock Exchange in early 2021 following a Trump administration order barring Americans from investing in the companies.

Didi is planning to delist from the NYSE and re-list in Hong Kong amid dual investigations from both U.S. and Chinese regulators—although numerous media reports have suggested Didi’s plan to re-list in Hong Kong has yet to win approval in Beijing due to regulators’ dissatisfaction with company’s handling of user data. On Wednesday, Didi announced that the SEC is probing the ride-hailing company’s 2021 IPO fiasco.

Several of the Chinese companies named on the SEC’s list, like, Bilibili, and NetEase, already have secondary listings in Hong Kong. More Chinese companies may turn to Hong Kong or other Chinese stock exchanges for secondary listings—or re-listings if it comes to that—as a hedge against U.S. action. 

China tech shares in Hong Kong—including those of companies on the SEC’s list—rose slightly in early trading on Thursday amid positive market sentiment following the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to hike interest rates by a half-point. The Hang Seng tech index, which tracks the 30 largest tech firms listed in Hong Kong, is up 1.7% as of noon Hong Kong time.

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