China aims to make IPO application process more transparent

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s securities regulator published a set of guidelines for companies applying to make initial public offerings (IPOs), in a bid to be more transparent and stabilize market expectations.

The new guidelines, issued by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) late on Thursday, come as China is poised to approve a record number of IPOs in 2017, while also tightening its grip during the vetting process to ensure the quality of listed companies.

In the form of a Q&A, CSRC clarified the deadline by which IPO applicants must respond to regulators’ queries, and listed eight situations in which the IPO vetting process would be suspended.

For example, suspension would be triggered if the applicant, its major shareholder, sponsor or underwriting lawyers were under any form of probe for misconduct, or if the IPO application conflicts with other type of securities the applicant is issuing.

China is accelerating IPO approvals as part of efforts to broaden direct finance and help companies reduce debt leverage.

During the first 10 months of this year, CSRC had approved 359 IPOs, exceeding the annual record of 347 in 2010, potentially making China’s IPO market one of the world’s biggest in 2017, the regulator said in a statement earlier this month.

But the pace of approvals has been uneven, with the release of large batches at times hitting the country’s stock markets as investors worried about a flood of new supply.

To reduce applicants’ waiting period, CSRC has shortened the vetting process this year, slashing the average approval time to about 15 months, from over three years previously.

Meanwhile, CSRC is getting less tolerant of substandard applicants. About 29 percent of IPO applications were rejected during the Jan-Oct period, according to the regulator.

Reporting by Samuel Shen and John Ruwitch; Editing by Kim Coghill