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THE wild stock swings that Hong Kong regulators spent more than half a decade trying to stamp out are now popping up in New York.
Post-listing spikes of thousands of percent in two little-known Hong Kong firms over the past few weeks have baffled investors in the world’s financial capital.
In fact, seven of 10 tiny listings from China and Hong Kong have gone on a tear this year before sudden collapses, catching the eye of the top United States regulator.
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman Gary Gensler said last week that authorities are well-placed to look into wild gyrations.
For investors watching from Hong Kong such unexplained stock jumps are familiar. The city was once a hotbed of massive share moves, prompting repeated warnings from regulators on “problematic IPOs” and “ramp-and-dump schemes,” which led to a drastic tightening of listing rules that all but killed off the Asian hub’s small-cap board.
“The situation is looking a lot like what happened with penny stocks in the Hong Kong market three, four years ago,” said Kakei Lam, fund investment officer at Metaverse Securities Ltd.
“Some big shareholders would try to prop up the share prices and lure in small investors.”
While New York has long been home to some of China’s biggest companies such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, it’s now seeing an influx of lesser-known names, especially from Hong Kong, who are seeking to avoid new hurdles in their home town.
The US listing of AMTD Digital Inc, whose recent stratospheric rise captivated investors, came after an IPO of another unit of its parent company was rejected by regulators in the Chinese territory.
But the US operates under a disclosure-based system, meaning there’s no permission needed to go public. Hong Kong works through a permission-based system, which makes getting approval more arbitrary.
Hong Kong’s watchdog has clamped down on prospective issuers, raising red flags about unusually high underwriting commissions and price-to-earnings ratios as well as shares being controlled by a limited number of people.
The stock exchange is tightening rules by raising the minimum profit threshold, while requiring a public offering rather than the shares just being sold to a private select group. It has warned that problematic applications will face heightened scrutiny.
Regulators also look at the type of business, setting a threshold for “listing suitability” and requiring approval from both the exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission.
Two recent volatile stocks in New York, AMTD Digital and Magic Empire Global Ltd, both qualified as an “emerging growth company” under US law, which enjoy relaxed disclosures when going public.