March 26, 2018 / 11:55 AM / a month ago

Hong Kong regulator finds compliance failures in IPO sponsors' work

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong’s securities regulator said on Monday it had found compliance failures in financial institutions’ roles sponsoring initial public offerings (IPOs) in the Asian financial hub.

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) is looking to lift the standards of sponsors which lead IPOs in the city and are liable for any misinformation included in prospectuses of listing applicants.

Earlier this month, UBS Group AG <(UBSG.S> disclosed that the SFC had blocked it from sponsoring IPOs for 18 months. The suspension, which the Swiss bank is appealing, is not effective until its appeal has been ruled upon.

The regulator is pursuing disciplinary action against eight other firms for alleged misconduct in their roles sponsoring IPOs, Thomas Atkinson, the SFC’s enforcement head, said on March 14.

On Monday, the SFC said that during its inspection of 31 sponsors from October 2013, when the new sponsor regulatory regime was launched, to December 2017, it had found deficiencies in standards of conduct, due diligence practices, and internal controls.

“In vetting draft prospectuses of listing applications, the SFC also identified concerns which the sponsors should have discovered and addressed through reasonable due diligence prior to the submission of the listing applications,” it said.

The SFC did not name any of the firms where failures were detected in their work as IPO sponsors.

“Sponsors and their senior executives are reminded to comply with the expected standards and the relevant codes, rules and regulations in carrying out their work,” the SFC’s Chief Executive Officer Ashley Alder said in its statement.

“The SFC will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those responsible for failing to do so.”

Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Andrew Roche

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