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Firms drop sanctioned Chinese companies as US enforces ban

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HONG KONG: Wall Street institutions in Hong Kong said they are reducing exposure to Chinese companies named in a US ban on investments in companies Washington considers linked to China’s military before the rules come into force later on Monday.


Goldman Sachs JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley will delist 500 Hong Kong-listed structured products linked to telecom companies China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom and local indexes including the Hang Seng Index, they said in filings to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong on Sunday evening.


The three telcos’ shares are included in the local benchmark.


In a separate statement, US custodian bank State Street said an exchange-traded fund it manages which tracks the Hang Seng Index would not make any new investments in sanctioned stocks, though it would continue to maintain its existing shareholdings.


The statement said that according to information published by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the fund was no longer appropriate for US individuals or companies to invest in.


The announcements follow statements last week by OFAC clarifying a November order from President Donald Trump that banned Americans from investing in Chinese companies that the US considers to have links with China’s military.


The investment banks’ filings cited a piece of guidance saying the three telecom companies were specifically included in the initial executive order.


Bourse operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing said it was “working closely with the relevant issuers to ensure orderly delisting, and facilitate buyback arrangements being arranged by the issuers.” There are over 12,000 structured products listed in Hong Kong issued by 15 companies.


Alex Wong, director at Ample Finance Group in Hong Kong said the delistings would “not have too much impact”, as customers could switch to Europe or China-based issuers.


Hong Kong’s markets watchdog, the Securities and Futures Commission, said it had stressed to the investment banks that “any action taken by them should be necessary, fair, and having regard to the best interest of investors and integrity of the market, and that investors should also be properly informed as appropriate.” Hang Seng Indexes Co Ltd did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Global index providers MSCI Inc, FTSE Russell and S&P Dow Jones Indices said last week they would cut the three Chinese telecom companies from benchmarks wiping a combined $5.6 billion off the value of their Hong Kong-traded shares on Friday.


— Reuters


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