Nasdaq Inc. is cracking down on initial public offerings (IPOs) of small Chinese companies by tightening restrictions and slowing down their approval, according to regulatory filings, corporate executives and investment bankers.
Nasdaq’s attempt to limit these stock market flotations comes as a growing number of them end up raising most of the capital in their IPO from Chinese sources, rather than from U.S. investors.
The shares of most small Chinese companies trade thinly following their U.S. listing, because most of them stay in the hands of a few insiders. Their low liquidity makes them unattractive to many large institutional investors, to whom Nasdaq is seeking to cater.
For example, when 111 Inc, a Chinese online pharmacy network, raised $100 million in its IPO on Nasdaq last year, shares were mainly sold to connections of the company’s executives, 111 CEO Liu Junling told Reuters in an interview.
Digital influencer incubator Ruhnn Holding Ltd, after-school education provider Puxin Ltd , and pet product manufacturer Dogness International Corp are other examples of Chinese companies that listed on Nasdaq in the last two years with more investors from China snapping up their shares than from the United states, according to sources close to the companies. Ruhnn, Puxin, and Dogness did not respond to requests for comment.
“One critical quality of our capital markets is that we provide non-discriminatory and fair access to all eligible companies. The statutory obligation of all U.S. equity exchanges to do so creates a vibrant market that provides diverse investment opportunities for U.S. investors,” a Nasdaq spokeswoman said.
The Nasdaq spokeswoman declined to comment specifically on the impact of the changes in the listing rules on the U.S. IPOs of small Chinese companies.
At a time of escalating tensions between the United States and China over trade and technology, Nasdaq’s curbs on small Chinese IPOs represent the latest flashpoint in the financial relationship between the world’s two largest economies.
U.S.-listed shares of Chinese companies fell sharply on Friday following reports that the White House was considering delisting Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges. A U.S. Treasury official said on Saturday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration was not considering blocking Chinese companies from listing shares on U.S. stock exchanges “at this time”.
A source close to Nasdaq said the changes to its listing rules were not the result of discussions with the White House. A White House spokesman declined to comment on Nasdaq’s listing rule changes.