May 6, 2016 / 9:40 AM / 3 years ago

China regulator studying impact of overseas-listed firms relisting in China

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s securities regulator said it is analyzing the potential impact of overseas-listed Chinese companies coming home to relist on mainland exchanges, potentially bad news for tech firms trying to come home and cash in on high valuations.

Men rest outside the headquarters building of China Securities Regulatory Commission, in Beijing, China, January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The valuation gap between the domestic and overseas market and speculation on shell companies should be paid attention to, Zhang Xiaojun, a spokesman for the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), said at a weekly briefing on Friday, according to remarks posted on CSRC’s official Weibo microblog.

The CSRC is studying the market impact of overseas-listed Chinese companies relisting in the A-share market through IPOs, mergers and acquisitions, as well as restructuring, Zhang added.

The regulator made the comments following rumors that it would block domestic listings by companies currently listed overseas, the Shanghai Securities News reported.

“For companies already in the process of relisting at home, the faster they get done the better because regulatory uncertainties are rising,” said a banker, who declined to be identified because they were not permitted to speak to media.

“We may also suggest that some clients opt for the new third board, given that there are fewer regulatory hurdles.”

The news may reassure Chinese stock investors, who worry that battered domestic markets are in no condition to absorb another round of IPOs by hot tech companies, seen as cannibalizing funds from already-listed companies and weakening overall market performance.

Domestic media have reported at least 20 Chinese firms listed overseas are considering delisting to come back and relist in China, some of them via “back-door listings” or “reverse mergers” that involve injecting assets into an already listed firm, thus skipping the long approval queue for IPOs.

An overall dilution in share values is a point of particular sensitivity as a flood of new IPOs was widely blamed for contributing to a massive stock market crash last summer.

Any move by the regulator could affect the wave of Chinese companies, particularly in the tech sector, who last year decided to de-list from U.S. stock exchanges and instead trade on domestic boards, a trend that intensified as Chinese stock markets rallied through mid-2015.

Those firms include Internet security and search firm Qihoo 360 Technologies Co Ltd QIHU.N, and dating app Momo Inc (MOMO.O), backed by Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd (BABA.N), both of which said they plan to delist.

Qihoo declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. Repeated calls to Momo offices were not answered.

Other Chinese companies have already raised funds and gone private on the expectation that they would be welcomed at home.

Domestic tech tickers still enjoy extremely high valuations relative to global peers, some of them in triple digits.

The ChiNext Growth Board .CHINEXTC boasts an average price earnings ratio of 65, compared with 21 for the Nasdaq 100 .NDX.

Additional reporting by the Beijing Newsroom and IFR; Writing by Pete Sweeney; Editing by Tom Hogue and Jacqueline Wong

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