China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. shares plunged 3.7% in Hong Kong on Monday after it was placed on a delisting watchlist by the US on Friday.
The e-commerce giant filed a statement with the Hong Kong bourse saying it would “strive to maintain its listing status on both the NYSE and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. ”
The company’s stock fell as much 4.5% in a near-flat Hong Kong market in early trade on Monday, although it regained some ground in afternoon trading.
On Friday, the US Securities and Exchange Commission added the Chinese e-commerce giant to a list of Chinese companies that could face delisting from US exchanges, which caused Alibaba’s shares to plunge by about 11% in New York.
The company became the latest of more than 270 firms to be added to the SEC’s list of Chinese companies that might be delisted for not meeting auditing requirements.
The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act (HFCAA) is intended to address a long-running dispute over the auditing compliance of US-listed Chinese firms. It aims to remove foreign companies from US exchanges if they fail to comply with American auditing standards for three consecutive years.
Alibaba said on Monday being added to the SEC list meant that 2022 was now considered to be its first ‘non-inspection’ year.
“Alibaba will continue to monitor market developments, comply with applicable laws and regulations and strive to maintain its listing status on both the NYSE and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange,” it said in its statement to the Hong Kong exchange.
US regulators have been demanding complete access to audit working papers of New York-listed Chinese companies, which are stored in China.
Beijing currently bars foreign inspection of working papers from local accounting firms.
The US rules give Chinese companies until early 2024 to comply with auditing requirements, though Congress is weighing bipartisan legislation that could accelerate the deadline to 2023.
China has said both sides are committed to reaching a deal to solve the audit dispute.
However, SEC chair Gary Gensler said last Wednesday he would not send public accounting inspectors to China or Hong Kong unless there is an agreement on complete audit access.
Alibaba said last week it planned to apply to convert its Hong Kong secondary listing to a dual primary listing, which would make it easier for mainland Chinese investors to buy its shares.
A dual listing would allow Alibaba to apply for admission to Stock Connect, the scheme connecting Hong Kong and mainland exchanges. Analysts estimated there could be $21 billion worth of inflows from mainland investors into Alibaba stock through Stock Connect.
Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listed shares have fallen 49% from HK$176 at the time of its secondary listing in November 2019 to HK$90.15 on Monday. In New York its shares were listed in 2014 at $68 each and are trading at $89.37.
Both sets of listed shares are down nearly 25% so far this year as the company battles the delisting threat, ongoing Chinese tech regulation and the prospect of its founder Jack Ma ceding control of the firm’s affiliate Ant Group.
Analysts at Jefferies described Alibaba’s share price drop as a “knee-jerk reaction” to the news of a potential delisting, and added that the 2024 deadline for Chinese American Depository Receipt delisting gives China adequate time to resolve its audit issues.
“China is serious about wanting to resolve the audit issues with the US, and talks will continue,” they wrote.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard