Xie Bing FCIS FCS, Board Secretary, China Southern Airlines, explains four factors relating to the compliance risks and challenges of A+H share listed companies.
During the last few years, the Mainland and Hong Kong capital markets have been in an expansionary phase with frequent innovations. The two capital markets have also seen marked increases in interactions and cooperation amongst regulators, particularly following the implementation of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, with its related synergies and cooperation. The regulatory philosophies of the regulator have also seen an incremental convergence in the face of the ever rapidly evolving and increasingly complex capital market which requires strengthening of regulatory oversight and synergies as the choice approach of regulators. This means increasing compliance risks and challenges for A+H share companies, flowing from the four main factors set out below.
The ‘through-train’ increases disclosure pressures and responsibilities
Against the backdrop of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) efforts to deepen the Mainland’s securities structural reforms, the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges are increasing the speed of regulatory changes. The basis of these reforms relates to the protection of investor interests and satisfying their needs, and information disclosure at the core, and regulatory controls both during and after the event as the regulatory philosophy. The implementation of the Shanghai and Shenzhen ‘through train’ – the direct connection between the Hong Kong and Mainland stock markets – means that disclosure of information in the Mainland will be moving from the minimum compliance-based approach and converging towards Hong Kong and international practice where listed companies really take on their disclosure responsibilities. The Stock Connect programme involves large-scale regulatory changes, and represents a milestone and pathway towards a more mature capital market.
But, in comparison to the more mature Hong Kong market, the Mainland’s capital market environment still has some areas that are less mature and comprehensive. In relation to the disclosure of inside information, in the Mainland the professionalism of intermediaries like consultants and lawyers is relatively low. This means that, for A+H shares and A share companies, the level of support that they can obtain externally from such intermediaries in comparison to H-share companies is lower. With the implementation of the through-train disclosure mechanism, A+H share companies, in their A share disclosure work, are inevitably faced with more risks and challenges in terms of meeting Hong Kong’s disclosure requirements. Companies’ board secretaries and their teams need to be more diligent and professional in carrying out their duties relating to information disclosure.
Comprehensive regulation increases information disclosure difficulties and risks
The Chairman of the CSRC, Liu Shiyu, at the time of the National People’s Congress (NPC)/ China’s People Political Consultative Committee’s (CPPCC) meeting, made it clear that his mission is regulation, and that regulation should be according to the law and effected in a comprehensive manner. Furthermore, information disclosure is a core concern. In recent years, the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges have learnt from Hong Kong’s experience. On the one hand, there has been a strengthening of inside information regulation during and after the event, and on the other, there has been an emphasis, not only on authenticity, accuracy, completeness and timeliness, but also on effectiveness, comparability, conciseness and the relevance of disclosures. Corporate disclosure should be approached from the investor’s perspective, should be clear and explain risks to satisfy the increasing and diverse needs of investors.
Broadly speaking, these manifest in two aspects: the first is the regulation of different industries. In 2015, the Shanghai Stock Exchange began to implement disclosure requirements for different industries. It required listed companies to strengthen disclosure in line with its industry over the company’s financial information and business operations with a horizontal comparison with its peers. It also required companies to disclose significant risks to enhance regulatory effectiveness. Secondly, there is the strengthening of during and after the event regulation, through a multi-dimensional monitoring of companies’ voluntary disclosure relating to the internet, virtual financial and other market ‘hot topics’ as part of the regulatory method. Additionally, there has been a continuous strengthening of the post-vetting of companies’ annual reports.
The above increases the difficulties and risks faced by A+H share companies. A listed company has to disclose more comprehensively, with more attention to effectiveness, comparability, brevity and relevance of disclosures.
Inside information regulatory pressures are ever increasing
In recent years, both Hong Kong and Mainland regulators have been increasingly concerned about inside information controls. The CSRC, and the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges, in addition to preserving the existing current insider filing system, have also strengthened their monitoring of price fluctuations, potential inside information leakage, insider dealing and other illegal activities. In respect to insider dealing, the strength of enforcement is ever increasing. In 2012, Hong Kong’s regulator upgraded disclosure regulations from stock exchange rules to statutory requirements, and a violation thereto could lead the company, its directors and senior managers to being exposed to direct responsibility and legal consequences with a maximum fine of HK$8 million.
Board secretaries and theircompliance teams need to continuously assess and perfect the company’s internal inside information management system, especially strengthening insider training and management. Also, as to the timing of disclosure, this must be done cautiously, to ensure that the inside information disclosures are timely and compliant.
The need for faster response times
Regulators in both the Mainland and Hong Kong have strengthened the requirement for timeliness of responses to regulatory enquiries. The Hong Kong regulators have real-time monitoring of media reports relating to important matters, and they are in continuous communication with companies. Likewise, the Shanghai Stock Exchange has recently strengthened the monitoring of price fluctuations and media reports. If there are significant rumours in the market, both regulators in Hong Kong and Mainland make enquiries and seek verification from the company. If necessary, the listed company would be required to issue a clarification announcement. In order to facilitate real time disclosures, the Shanghai Stock Exchange has introduced new morning, afternoon and after-hours disclosure windows. In a way, this narrows the gap in information disclosure with the Hong Kong market, and enhances the efficiency of inside information disclosure, and in another way, allows for the listed company to clarify inside information to manifest speedy disclosure reactions to the market.
A+H listed companies must strengthen daily market information monitoring; enhance communications with controlling shareholders and the like with efficiency; build effective and reactive mechanisms; deal with and react to emergency situations; answer exchange queries; and, as required by the exchanges, issue clarification announcements, along with coordinating the A and A+H share disclosures and consistency.
In summary of the above, A+H listed companies compliance work is involved and far reaching, particularly in the context of the regulatory changes in the Mainland and the convergence between Mainland and Hong Kong regulations. Board secretaries must be diligent in performing their duties, and form a more professional team and build comprehensive compliance regulations. There is also a need to facilitate and manage compliance work flow with a high degree of responsibility, a strict work attitude and outstanding knowledge of risk to perform the listed company’s compliance work.
Xie Bing FCIS FCS
China Southern Airlines
但是，同香港等成熟資本市場相比，內地資本市場環境還存在不成熟、不完善的地方，就信息披露而言，主要體現在合規律師、合規顧問等專業化中介機構市場化程度比較低。 A+H上市公司涉及A股的信息披露工作比涉及H 股信息披露工作可藉助的外力要少很多。在信息披露直通車實施後，A+H上市公司在A股信息披露工作中面臨著挑戰和風險，需要公司董事會秘書及團隊更加專業、嚴謹的做好信息披露工作。
具體來講，主要表現在兩個方面，一是，分行業監管。 2015年上海證券交易所開始實施信息披露分行業監管，要求上市公司加強對同行業公司財務信息、經營業務、商業模式的橫向比較分析，要求公司充分揭示重大風險，進一步提高信息披露監管的有效性和可比性。二是，加強事中事後監管，通過多維度舉措，對公司自主發布的涉及互聯網金融、虛擬現實等市場熱點題材的公告採取“ 刨根問底” 的監管模式；並持續加強對上市公司年報的事後審核力度，尤其是對年報“高送轉”信息披露的監管力度。