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Shenzhen bourse to resume listings
( 2003-07-04 10:23) (China Daily HK Edition)

After a three-year freeze on listing new companies, Shenzhen Stock Exchange (SZSE) looks set to renew its role in initial public offerings - catering in particular for smaller enterprises.

In the last three years, much discussion took place on the launch of a second-board - a stock market for startups similar to Hong Kong's Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) or the Nasdaq of the United States - in Shenzhen. For that purpose, the central government decided three years ago to put a stop to SZSE listing new companies, giving Shanghai Stock Exchange (SHSE) a monopoly of all IPOs in the domestic A-share market.

However, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), the industry watchdog, "has in principle agreed to allow SZSE to resume regular IPO services", Guangzhou-based weekly newspaper Southern Weekend reported Thursday.

To more or less accommodate the need for high-tech companies to raise capital, the CSRC requires the SZSE to open only to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) whose IPOs are backed up by high growth records and with no more than 50 million shares for trading.

The CSRC decision, which is awaiting for final approval from the State Council, will "chart a new road of the rational development of China's capital market", said Professor Liu Jipeng, director of the Centre for Company Research at the Capital Economic and Trade University.

"The CSRC decision not only helps prevent huge financial risks that may come along with a premature second-board market, but also shows good considerations of the characteristics of China's SMEs," he said.

There are nearly 40 million small and medium-sized enterprises in China, with their industrial output accounting for 60 per cent of the country's total. But most of them, especially high-tech ones, are facing capital shortages, according to the motion.

Since the idea of a second-board market in Shenzhen was initiated in 1999, the launch has been put off time and again mainly because of worries about potential financial risks.

Existing legal loopholes may lead to illegal funding on the market by some venture capital investors and thus increase the risk, said economist Cheng Siwei.

The resumption of IPO services in Shenzhen will give private enterprises more opportunities for domestic initial public offerings, said Professor Li Yining with Peking University.

The Chinese capital market is suffering huge losses of quality resources as a growing number of domestic private firms are seeking listing overseas.

By the end of 2002, only 170 out of the country's more than 2 million private firms were listed in Shenzhen and Shanghai stock exchanges, which have more than 1,200 listed companies.

Industrial analysts said the CSRC move has also served as a positive response to a March motion by Guangdong delegation to the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature.

The motion, co-signed by a dozen of Guangdong NPC deputies including vice-governor Song Hai and former Shenzhen Mayor Yu Youjun, called for the establishment of the second-board market in stages.

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