The U.S. Senate recently passed a bill that could force Chinese companies to delist their stocks from American exchanges. If the bill becomes a law, Chinese companies would need to prove they aren't owned by the Chinese government and open their books to the non-profit Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB).
The bill still needs to be approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Trump, but it enjoys broad bipartisan support. Therefore, it isn't surprising that several major Chinese tech companies -- including Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), JD.com (NASDAQ:JD), and NetEase (NASDAQ:NTES) -- all recently filed new IPOs in Hong Kong.
Let's examine these three companies' moves into Hong Kong, and whether or not American investors should avoid their U.S.-listed shares.
Alibaba originally planned to go public in Hong Kong last August, but it postponed the listing due to escalating protests across the region. It completed the offering in November, more than five years after its IPO in New York.
It issued 500 million new ordinary shares and an over-allotment of 75 million shares to raise about $13.8 billion, marking the biggest listing of the year. The IPO diluted its total shares, which are split between its New York and Hong Kong investors, by less than 3%.
Alibaba recently assured its U.S. investors it wouldn't delist its NYSE shares and believed it could comply with any new regulatory demands. CFO Maggie Wu stated Alibaba would "closely monitor" the proposed bill, but it's unclear if the tech giant will ever fully open its books to the PCAOB.
JD.com, Alibaba's biggest rival in China's e-commerce market, also went public in the U.S. in 2014. JD recently filed a secondary offering for 133 million new ordinary shares -- including 126.35 million U.S.-listed shares offered internationally and 6.65 million shares in Hong Kong -- which will be worth roughly the same as their U.S.-listed ADS counterparts.
JD's secondary offering could raise up to $4 billion and dilute its existing shares by nearly 5%. It's expected to complete the offering on June 18, which coincides with its 22nd anniversary and the final day of its annual "618" shopping holiday.
JD hasn't commented about a potential delisting in the U.S. yet, but it could further strengthen its ties to Hong Kong with an IPO for JD Logistics later this year. However, JD also recently filed another IPO for its Dada Nexus online grocery affiliate in the U.S., which suggests it isn't giving up on New York just yet.
NetEase, China's second-largest gaming company after Tencent (OTC:TCEHY), went public in the U.S. in 2000. It recently priced a global offering of 171.5 million shares, but only 3% will be allocated to Hong Kong investors, with the rest offered to international investors on June 11.
NetEase expects to raise about $2.8 billion with its new IPO, diluting its existing shares by about 5%. The shares also won't be sold at a meaningful discount to its U.S.-listed shares.
Back in 2001, NetEase was nearly delisted from the NASDAQ due to fraud allegations and a missed annual report, but it overcame those growing pains and became a reliable bellwether of China's gaming sector. NetEase hasn't commented on the Senate's latest threats yet, but its recent spin-off of its online education unit Youdao (NYSE:DAO) in New York suggests it won't retreat from the U.S. anytime soon.
The key takeaways
The threat of a mass exodus of Chinese stocks from U.S. exchanges is alarming, but I doubt the bill will pass in its current form since it would seriously hurt American investors, funds, and exchanges.
It isn't surprising to see Chinese companies file secondary IPOs in Hong Kong as safety nets, but they probably won't rush to delist their stocks from U.S. exchanges, which still generate far more liquidity than the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.