China Joins Battle with Hong Kong and U.S. for Tech Listings

When Hong Kong Exchange CEO Charles Li announced last year plans to help with the next wave of tech giants from China to go public in that city, bankers were celebrating.

Finally they felt that Hong Kong would be able to compete against New York, its biggest rival for tech and other initial public offerings, through starting to offer the tech founders weighted voting rights that are common in the U.S. that they were demanding.

However, over the last month another rival has crashed the party for IPOs that Hong Kong was hoping to have. China is now in the game.

The securities regulator for China on March 30 announced its own scheme to entice the same group of businesses to list in Shenzhen and Shanghai.

Beijing has also targeted companies such as Alibaba Group, and Baidu by allowing them listings at home through secondary listings, business that also has been high on the agenda of Hong Kong

At the center of this tussle of three exchanges lies what is estimated to be over $500 billion worth of tech firms in China expecting to seek listings over the upcoming years, representing the largest potential pool for IPO fees anywhere in the world outside the tech sector of the U.S.

China is hoping more of its own tech companies list on their home exchange where domestic investors are able to benefit from any form of success.

Last week, iQiyi, which is backed by Baidu, became the most recent company to list with New York raising over $2.25 billion in the largest listing of an international Chinese tech company since Alibaba.

Smartphone and appliance maker Xiaomi and Meituan-Dianping, the largest Chinese provider of on-demand services online, plan to list in Hong Kong in 2019, with Xiaomi seeking a $100 billion valuation.

As Beijing steps its efforts up to attract tech companies from China, Hong Kong, which will likely implement weighted voting rights during the second quarter, reversing its long standing principle of one share one vote, is playing down any competition.

A Hong Kong exchange spokesperson said there was no doubt many companies will consider listing on the mainland, but a strong pipeline of businesses is expected to be listing in Hong Kong.

How far the plan is for China to crash the planned tech party of Hong Kong will depend, say many bankers, on how rules are implemented for its Chinese depositary receipts or CDRs, which allow investors who are in China to buy securities in firms listed overseas already.