B. Other requirements
Other listing requirements include qualification requirements of directors, public float and spread of shareholders and suitability for listing.
For red-chip companies which adopt variable interest entities (“VIE”) structures, it is important to note that under Listing Decision HKEX-LD43-3 (“LD43-3”) of the Exchange, all listing applicants are required to meet “narrowly tailored” principle that applicants can only use VIE structures to avoid foreign investment restriction or prohibition. Where possible, listing applicants would be required to demonstrate genuine efforts to comply with applicable laws and regulations. But under the MBLR, for a secondary listing applicant which has listed on an overseas stock exchange with its VIE structure on or before 15 December 2017, the applicant may be exempted from strict compliance of LD43-3 and may list with its existing VIE structure in place.
In addition, there are certain other listing requirements focusing on the securities to be issued. Both the MBLR and GEMLR require the securities to be issued be freely transferable. Also, the voting power of the shares must bear a reasonable relationship to the equity interest those shares represent. However, with the new Chapter 8A of the MBLR, which came into effect in April 2018, listing applicants with weighted voting rights (“WVR”) structure may be allowed to list on the Main Board.
2 Specific listing requirements for applicants with WVR structures
In addition to satisfying the general listing qualifications as aforementioned, listing applicants with WVR structure must demonstrate that it has met certain additional characteristics for the purpose of demonstrating to the Exchange that it is suitable for listing in Hong Kong with a WVR structure, a summary of which is set out below (please refer to Guidance Letter GL93-18 of the Exchange for more details):
Firstly, the listing applicants should be an innovative company with the following characteristics:
- its success is attributable to the application, to the company’s core business, of (i) new technologies; (ii) innovations; and/or (iii) a new business model;
- research and development are a significant contributor of its expected value and constitutes a major activity and expense;
- its success is attributable to its unique features or intellectual property; and/or
- it has an outsized market capitalization/intangible asseti value relative to its tangible asset value.
Whether the listing applicant is “innovative” will depend on the state of the industry and market that the listing applicant operates which will be ever-changing as the technology, market and industry develop.
B. WVR holders
For WVR holders, they must have an active executive role within the business and must continue to be a director at the time of listing. They must also have been materially responsible for the growth of the business by way of their skills, knowledge or strategic direction in circumstances where the value of the company is mainly derived from intangible human capital. Nevertheless, their voting power shall not be more than 10 times of the voting power of the non-WVR holders. The listing applicants must also ensure that the non-WVR holder will hold at least 10% of the voting powers of the shares.
C. Financial requirements
There are two financial requirements for the WVR conditions to meet. The first concerns market capitalization, whereby the listing applicant must achieve, at the time of listing, either:
- a market capitalization of at least HK$40bn; or
- a market capitalization of at least HK$10bn and revenue of at least HK$1bn for the most recent audited financial year.
Another financial requirement concerns external validation in which there must be previous third-party investment from at least one “sophisticated investor”. The Exchange, in considering whether an investor is “sophisticated”, will consider the investor’s knowledge and expertise in the relevant field, investment experience and net assets etc. Such investor(s) must retain an aggregate 50% of its/their investment for a period no less than six months after listing.
V. Secondary listing under the concessionary route
1. Secondary listing requirements
A. Type of applicant
Chapter 19C of MBLR became effective in April 2018, which provides a secondary listing channel for companies with certain characteristics and for the first times allows companies with their center of gravity in the Greater China (“Greater China Issuer”) to conduct secondary listing in Hong Kong. Generally speaking, a “Qualifying Issuer” (being an issuer primary listed on a “Qualifying Exchange”, and “Qualifying Exchange” includes the New York Stock Exchange LLC, the Nasdaq Stock Market or the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange plc (and belonging to the UK Financial Conduct Authority’s “Premium Listing” segment)) and also being an “innovative company”, is normally considered as a suitable candidate for the purpose of secondary listing under Chapter 19C. According to the Guidance Letter GL94-18 issued by the Exchange, the Exchange normally assesses whether a company is an “innovative company” by considering whether it possess more than one of the following characteristics:
- its success is demonstrated to be attributable to the application, to the company’s core business, of (i) new technologies; (ii) innovations; and/or (iii) a new business model, which also serves to differentiate the company from existing players;
- research and development is a significant contributor of its expected value and constitutes a major activity and expense;
- its success is demonstrated to be attributable to its unique features or intellectual property; and/or
- it has an outsized market capitalization / intangible asset value relative to its tangible asset value.
B. Qualifications for secondary listing
A Qualifying Issuer must have a good track record of compliance for at least two full financial years on a Qualifying Exchange.
A Qualifying Issuer with a WVR structure must have a market capitalization of at least HK$40bn at the time of secondary listing, or a market capitalization of at least HK$10bn at the time of secondary listing with a revenue of at least HK$1bn for the most recent audited financial year.
2. Concessionary treatment for listing applicants of secondary listing
Issuers applying for secondary listing in Hong Kong are entitled to a number of automatic or conditional waivers from compliance with certain requirements of the MBLR, including issuer’s internal organization, corporate governance standards, listing channels, dealings in securities and restrictions on transfer, connected transactions, disclosure in annual report, requirements relating to the appointment of auditor and compliance adviser, share option schemes, environmental and social matters as well as compliance by directors with Model Code for Securities Transaction by Director of Listed Issuers and Code on Share Buy-backs.
The following table sets out the different concessionary treatments applicable to different types of Greater China Issuers under Chapter 19C of the MBLR: