SEC Reportedly Halts Chinese Firm IPOs After Ride-Hailer DiDi Global’s $50 Billion Crash

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The Securities and Exchange Commission has stopped accepting registrations for the issuance of securities by China-based companies until it outlines the risks posed by such investments, Reuters reported Friday, marking the agency’s first set of action after mounting government interference in China this month erased billions of dollars in market value from recently listed DiDi Global and other China-based companies.

Key Facts

The SEC has said it won’t accept new registrations until it has released specific guidance on how companies should disclose the risks posed by China-based investments, unnamed sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. There are reportedly no such IPOs in the works, but it’s unclear how long the guidance may take to develop.

The reported decision comes after SEC commissioner Allison Lee on Tuesday said Chinese companies listed in the U.S. should disclose the risks of Chinese government interference to investors as part of their required reporting disclosures.

Similarly, a group of five GOP Senators on Wednesday urged SEC Chair Gary Gensler to “demand immediate and robust action” addressing a recent crackdown by Beijing officials on Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges. The SEC did not immediately respond to Forbes’ request for comment.

Key Background

In a matter of days, China introduced regulatory actions targeting both ride-hailing app DiDi and the nation’s education companies—harsh measures showing investors how risky investing in the market can be, Tom Essaye, author of the Sevens Report wrote in a Tuesday note. Days after DiDi’s massive U.S. IPO, the Cyberspace Administration of China ordered app stores to remove the ride-hailer from their platforms, claiming it “severely violat[ed] regulations around the collection of personal data.

” DiDi stock has plunged nearly 50% since the action, wiping out nearly $50 billion in market value in less than one month. Then, in a weekend order earlier this month, China’s education ministry barred “capitalized operations” among “online training institutions,” saying such companies can no longer turn a profit or raise money in the public markets and triggering a selloff in the space that erased nearly half the market value of many education firms.

Crucial Quote

“Yes, there’s a huge market and lots of growth potential, but obviously there are regulatory risks that seem to be growing larger with every passing month,” notes Essaye.

Surprising Fact

The Nasdaq Golden Dragon China index, which tracks Chinese companies trading in the United States, is down 12% this week and nearly 34% over the past six months.

Big Number

$12.8 billion. That’s how much Chinese listings in the United States have raised so far this year, according to Refinitiv data cited by Reuters. Genser said that he was concerned U.S. investors frequently don’t understand the structure of the companies whose shares they are buying.

In cases where China forbids foreign ownership, “many China-based operating companies are structured as Variable Interest Entities (VIEs). In such an arrangement, a China-based operating company typically establishes an offshore shell company in another jurisdiction, such as the Cayman Islands,” Gensler said.

The Chinese government has taken action against U.S.-listed Alibaba  (BABA) – Get Report and Didi Global  (DIDI) – Get Report in recent months. Days after Didi executed its IPO earlier in July, China forbade the ride-hailing titan from signing up new users.

Further Reading

Exclusive-U.S. regulator freezes Chinese company IPOs over risk disclosures -sources (Reuters)

US-Listed Chinese Tech Stocks Erase Nearly $150 Billion In Market Value This Week As China Stokes Regulatory Fears (Forbes)

The move comes as the SEC works on new guidelines for disclosing to investors the risk of continued regulatory crackdowns by China’s government, knowledgeable sources told Reuters. In a statement Friday, SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said “I have asked staff to seek certain disclosures from offshore issuers associated with China-based operating companies before their registration statements will be declared effective.”

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I’m a reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business journalism and economics while working for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School as a marketing and communications assistant. Before Forbes, I spent a summer reporting on the L.A. private sector for Los Angeles Business Journal and wrote about publicly traded North Carolina companies for NC Business News Wire. Reach out at jponciano@forbes.com. And follow me on Twitter @Jon_Ponciano

Source: SEC Reportedly Halts Chinese Firm IPOs After Ride-Hailer DiDi Global’s $50 Billion Crash

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Critics:

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Didi is contemplating going private to soothe Chinese regulators and make whole investors who have suffered losses as Didi’s shares declined since the IPO. Didi called The Journal’s report “not true.”

In any case, SEC commissioner Allison Lee said Tuesday that as part of their reporting chores, U.S.-listed Chinese companies must tell investors the risks of Chinese government interference in their activity, according to Reuters.

U.S. listings of Chinese stocks have jumped to a record $12.8 billion so far this year, according to Refinitiv. The market’s repeated surges to record highs have attracted Chinese companies. But the move against Didi has slowed things down.

Shares of Chinese companies listed in the U.S. tumbled late last week and early this week amid fears about the government crackdowns.Didi fell 30% from July 21 to July 27. It recently traded at $10.14, up 3%, but has dropped 28% since its IPO. Alibaba recently traded at $194.31, down 2%, and has slumped 15% in the last month.

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