China state-owned giants to delist from US stock exchange

The delisting adds to a growing financial rift and growing tensions between the two biggest economies.

A Chinese Communist Party badge is pinned to a worker's uniform at the Sinopec Yanshan Petrochemical Company on the outskirts of Beijing
Washington has cautioned Chinese companies may be forced to leave United States stock exchanges if Beijing blocks regulators from seeing the records of their corporate auditors [File: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo]

Three state-owned Chinese corporate giants announced plans Friday to remove their shares from the New York Stock Exchange, adding to a growing financial separation between the biggest global economies in the middle of a dispute about scrutiny of company audits.

PetroChina Ltd, China Life Insurance Ltd and China Petroleum & Chemical Co made no mention of the auditing dispute or US-Chinese tensions over Taiwan, security, technology and human rights.

The companies, in similarly worded statements issued within 30 minutes of each other, cited the small trading volume of their shares in New York. They said shares still would be traded in Hong Kong, which is open to non-Chinese investors.

Washington has warned Chinese companies including Alibaba Group, the world’s biggest e-commerce company, might be forced to leave US stock exchanges if Beijing refuses to allow regulators to see the records of their corporate auditors.

American authorities have said that other governments have agreed to that step, which is required by US law, and China and Hong Kong are the only holdouts. China said talks are making progress but US officials said important issues are unresolved.

Americans also are barred under a November 2020 order by then-President Donald Trump from investing in the stocks, bonds and other securities of dozens of companies cited by the Pentagon as possibly supporting China’s military development. The three companies that announced their departure from US markets on Friday are not on that blacklist.

Friday’s announcement follows moves by Chinese companies that are increasing the role of Hong Kong in connecting them with foreign investors.

China’s biggest ride-hailing service, Didi Chuxing, left the New York Stock Exchange on June 10 and joined the Hong Kong exchange. Alibaba announced plans in July to upgrade the status of its Hong Kong-traded shares to make them accessible to mainland investors.

PetroChina, China Life and China Petroleum & Chemical, known as Sinopec, said the securities affected were American depositary shares, or ADS, that represented shares traded in Hong Kong. They said the Hong Kong shares still would be traded.

The Chinese securities regulator said their decision to leave the US stock market is “based on their own commercial considerations”. In a brief statement, it promised to “maintain communication” with foreign regulators to “jointly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of enterprises and investors”.

PetroChina cited the expense of complying with rules in multiple stock markets.

Exchanges in Hong Kong and Shanghai are “strong alternatives” that can “satisfy the company’s fundraising requirements”, the PetroChina announcement said.

Private companies including Alibaba have raised billions of dollars on US exchanges because they were largely shut out of the Chinese financial system, which serves state-owned companies.

Foreign stock exchanges matter less to state-owned companies. Shares traded in China or Hong Kong usually represent the bulk of their market value.

The New York Stock Exchange announced plans in January 2021 to end trading of shares of China’s three main state-owned phone carriers under Trump’s order. The exchange temporarily withdrew the plan but later said the expulsion would go ahead.

Source: AP