UPDATE 1-Hong Kong exchange closer to launching IPO review process- source

Thu Jan 9, 2014 5:49am EST

By Denny Thomas and Elzio Barreto

HONG KONG Jan 9 (Reuters) - The Hong Kong stock exchange has submitted a draft report to the Securities and Exchanges Commission that could lead to new shareholding structures for publicly listed companies in the city, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The submission brings closer the launch of a public consultation process on allowing different shareholding structures for Hong Kong initial public offerings.

The move comes after Hong Kong regulators in 2013 rejected Internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's planned IPO because of the firm's request to keep a shareholder structure allowing a group of top managers and founders - who together own only around 13 percent of the company - to nominate and control the board. That request went against the exchange's one-share-one-vote principle.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd (HKEx), the stock exchange operator, said in November it was considering launching a public consultation.

Such a process could take months, but an agreement allowing different structures would be a major step in allowing Alibaba to list in Hong Kong - though it's unclear if the company would wait that long.

Any rule change proposed by the exchange would have to be approved by the SFC, which met with Alibaba last year when it first explored a Hong Kong listing.

The regulator is concerned at how dual class share systems like the ones used in the United States could work in Hong Kong given it has a very different regulatory structure, a source said.

The SFC and the HKEx declined to comment.

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