Hours after Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. kicked off the process for an IPO in New York, the head of the Hong Kong stock exchange, once the front-runner for the deal, urged regulators to allow changes of rules to accommodate new listings
就在电子商务巨头阿里巴巴集团(Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.)启动纽约首次公开募股(IPO)程序后几个小时，香港交易及结算所有限公司(Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd., 简称：香港交易所)行政总裁李小加(Charles Li)便敦促监管者们允许修改上市规定以适应新的交易。香港交易所曾经是阿里巴巴最可能上市的地点。
The loss of e-commerce giant Alibaba comes after months of gridlock at the exchange's owner, Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. and its regulator, the Securities and Futures Commission, over adapting rules to suit a proposal by Alibaba that partners in the company continue to nominate the majority of the board even after the company is listed. Such a structure, giving the founding partners control of the board, would violate Hong Kong's existing 'one shareholder, one vote' rules.
While Charles Li, chief executive of the Hong Kong Exchange, defended the decision not to compromise over the demands of one company, he warned that unless rules are changed, the territory will lose out in the race to list companies that are proposing alternative shareholder structures. He didn't say how the rules ought to be changed, but argued that the process of reaching a consensus among market participants ought to begin.
'Insisting on your principle is never without cost,' Mr. Li said in an interview. 'But we have to continue to innovate and dare to have the courage to reform, have the courage to do what is right, and to the extent we need to make the changes to anything we will do it,' he said.
Talks on a Hong Kong listing for Alibaba fell apart last September. Since then, Mr. Li has advocated for rule changes. The overhaul process has failed to get off the ground, and people involved appear divided about what rules need to be amended.
Mr. Li said he expected Alibaba to choose New York. 'This is not a surprise,' he said. 'I'm glad they finally made a decision.'
The loss of Alibaba came as the exchange missed out on a wave of Chinese tech IPOs. Nine of the 10 biggest IPOs by Chinese Internet-related companies since 2009 have been in the U.S., according to data provider Dealogic. Under Mr. Li, the exchange has focused on commodities and derivatives and has continued to capture the lion's share of listings by mainland Chinese companies. It has several big IPOs in its pipeline.
Some members of the committee charged with reviewing the exchange's rules say they favored accommodating Alibaba, but others say they felt that any changes would be seen as a weakening of the rule of law in the former British territory, which is part of China but retains its own legal system. The concern is that Hong Kong's status as a global financial center could be eroded by the perception that rules could be changed to suit a powerful player, in particular the Chinese government.
'A one-off waiver just because of Alibaba's status would send a pretty bad message regarding the rule of law,' said one person familiar with the regulator process. 'A more general regulatory change was never going to happen quickly.'
Other people involved in the regulatory process say that even if Alibaba and the stock exchange had reached an agreement, they wouldn't have been able to convince the SFC that listing rules need to be changed. 'They have not fallen foul of the stock exchange, they have fallen foul of the SFC,' another person familiar with the matter said of Alibaba.
Alibaba expressed frustration at the rule-making process last fall. Vice Chairman Joe Tsai, the company co-founder who has been leading the IPO effort, said in a post on Alibaba's website that Hong Kong--which he called Alibaba's 'natural' first choice--must address 'whether it is ready to look forward as the rest of the world passes it by.'
Alibaba has repeatedly said that it is determined to keep its partnership structure.
In October, Alibaba received written confirmation from the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market that this sort of structure wouldn't be an obstacle for a U.S. listing.
去年10月，阿里巴巴收到了纽约证券交易所(New York Stock Exchange)和纳斯达克市场(Nasdaq Stock Market)的书面确认函。二者均表示，阿里巴巴的这种结构不会成为赴美上市的障碍。
'We respect the viewpoints and policies of Hong Kong and will continue to pay close attention to and support the process of innovation and development of Hong Kong,' Alibaba said in a statement Sunday.
The SFC declined to comment.
Mr. Li has also taken heat for the 2012 takeover of the London Metal Exchange for US$2.16 billion, a price some analysts said was too high. The business has continued to drag on profits as the exchange spends millions on improving its technology. The LME is also fighting class-action lawsuits over the amount of time it takes to have metal shipped out of warehouses licensed by the exchange.
李小加还曾因为香港交易所2012年斥资21.6亿美元收购伦敦金属交易所(London Metal Exchange, 简称LME)的交易而受到关注，分析师认为这个收购价格太高。该业务持续给香港交易所的利润带来拖累，主要因为改进LME技术的耗资达数百万。与此同时，LME还在面临集体诉讼，该诉讼与LME授权仓库的出货等候时间有关。
Still, targeting commodities trading will ultimately pay off, said Matthew Smith, an analyst at Macquarie Securities.
然而麦格理证券(Macquarie Securities)的分析师史密斯(Matthew Smith)说，瞄准商品交易最终是会取得成功的。
'Is it strategically wrong to try to embrace commodities when you are sitting on the doorstep of the world's key growth driver for commodities consumption? I would say no--strategically it makes sense,' he said.
The exchange's stock-listing business won't be hurt too badly by Alibaba's decision to go to New York. Fees from new listings account for about 15% of revenue, and a rush late last year--the fourth quarter was the busiest on record--helped deliver an 11% profit increase for 2013.
But those listings were weighted toward Chinese banks seeking capital to shore up their balance sheets against expected losses, rather than fast-growing tech companies, which were gravitating toward New York. Analysts said the exchange will need to send signals that it is open to considering alternative proposals.
'Clearly if this prevents other listings of its kind, then that could be a problem in future,' Marcus Liu, an analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, said of the Hong Kong exchange's listing rules.
里昂证券亚太区市场(CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets)的分析师Marcus Liu在谈到香港交易所的上市规定时说，显然如果其规定对其他此类公司的上市构成阻碍，那么这可能会在未来成为一个问题。
Hong Kong was the world's No. 2 IPO market in 2013, ranking behind the New York Stock Exchange, according to Dealogic, as it bouced back after slipping to fourth place in 2012. For the previous three years, it had ranked first.
The exchange has made a strong start in 2014 by attracting a number of high-profile new-share offerings. Coming up, WH Group, which under its former name Shuanghui International bought U.S. pork producer Smithfield last year, is set to raise US$5 billion in April. And the listing of tycoon Li Ka-shing's A.S. Watson & Co retail operation is expected to raise billions.
香港交易所在2014年强势开局，吸引了许多备受关注的新股上市交易。万州国际(WH Group)将于4月份通过在香港的IPO筹资50亿美元。万州国际此前名为双汇国际(Shuanghui International Holdings)，该公司在更名前于去年收购了美国猪肉生产商Smithfield。此外，预计香港大亨李嘉诚麾下的零售业务屈臣氏集团有限公司(A.S. Watson & Co)将通过香港IPO筹资数十亿美元。