中国股在美国乌云压顶 / Storm Clouds Linger Over US Listed Chinese Stocks

中国股在美国乌云压顶

北大光华管理学院教授Paul Gillis博士在他的“中国会计博客”(China Accounting Blog)中写道:迫于美国公众公司会计监督委员会(PCAOB)的压力,纽约证券交易所和纳斯达克将有五分之一的可能会要求中国公司退市。

中国在纽交所和纳斯达克上市的股票超过二十支,还有数百家企业通过反向并购进入了市场。由于很多企业都牵扯进腐败和会计丑闻,导致美国国会向PCAOB和证券交易委员会(SEC)投诉,抱怨在美上市的中国公司审计质量不佳。

作为回应,PCAOB表示多年来一直在与中方进行磋商,以获准监督在华会计师事务所,但都无功而返。四大会计师事务所之一的德勤拒绝向SEC提供至少两家中国公司的工作底稿,理由是中方监管机构不允许他们这样做。美国法庭目前正在审理SEC和德勤间的一个案件。据称其他几家“四大”会计师事务所也面临着同样的窘境。

Gillis博士注意到虽然很多美中经济、法律、财务方面的专家长期以来对类似的情况早已耳熟能详,但随着总统选举季的到来,这一问题有可能会在更广泛的公众范围内被政治化。

毫无疑问,中国私有企业将美国股市视为重要的资金来源地。中国股市在成立最初十年(1990年-2000年)关注的主要是国企改革而非私企的需求。

中企退市对中国和中资企业的声誉都是一种打击,对美国市场在全球经济中的传统作用也是一个颇具负面影响的历史性决定。

很多在中国有影响力的声音都表示愿意看到中企回归,在国内上市,但也有些人认为中国的股市发展尚不完善,无法满足需求。假如Gillis提出的退市情况一旦发生,香港将成为受益人。

同时,审计战场很快就要重新洗牌,因为中方监管机构要求“四大”重组的大限将至,未来“四大”必须与本地有资质的事务所达成合作,且中方所占的股份不得低于60%。由于这一期限是以现有合资期限满20年为前提,因此“四大”的重组日期各有不同,其中最早到期的是毕马威,时间为2012年8月,年内还有安永和德勤将陆续到期。

在重组之后,“四大”还需获得PCAOB的批准,但PCAOB规定凡是没有核查协议的国家,其审计公司一律不予批准。而没有PCAOB的批准,审计公司将无权审计在美上市的中国公司,也无法以任何重要形式参与在美上市跨国公司的审计。

雪上加霜的是,中国国家工商总局自2012年2月起开始打击获取中国企业登记信息的行为,以此回应“混水公司”和“香橼研究”卖空中国股票所造成的广泛负面影响。

这种制裁仍在继续,其影响远远超出了海外上市中资企业可能出现的买空卖空。为实现在华并购,跨国公司和其他企业经常需要进行背景调查,这在很大程度上也需依赖于企业的登记信息。工商总局的一纸限令让专业从事背景调查的公司无计可施,也让潜在的并购计划受阻搁浅。

所以,目前不仅是在美上市的中国股票乌云压顶,中国的IPO和并购市场似乎也是一片愁云惨淡。

Storm Clouds Linger Over US Listed Chinese Stocks

In his China Accounting Blog, Dr. Paul Gillis, a Professor at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, writes that there is a one in five chance that the NYSE and NASDAQ will be forced by the Public Corporation Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) to delist Chinese companies.

There are 200-plus Chinese companies listed on NYSE and NASDAQ, with hundreds more which have come to market through reverse mergers. Many have been implicated in fraud and accounting scandals, which has prompted the US Congress to complain to the PCAOB and the SEC about the quality of the auditing of US listed Chinese companies.

In response, the PCAOB has been engaged for many years in discussions in China on gaining access to inspect accounting firms, without success. Big Four accounting firm Deloitte has refused to provide working papers to the SEC on at least two Chinese companies, saying that Chinese regulators will not permit them to do so. One case between the SEC and Deloitte is currently before the US courts. Other big Four firms reportedly face similar dilemmas.

Professor Gillis observes that while this set of issues has been well known to many in US-China financial, legal and accounting professions for some time, there is a risk in the current US presidential election climate that it could be politicized in a much wider public context.

There is no question that China’s private sector has used US stock markets as an important source of capital. China’s own stock markets focused more during their first decade (1990 – 2000) on reform of SOEs than the private sector.

Delisting of Chinese companies would be a reputational blow for China and Chinese business. It would also be a historic decision with negative implications for the traditional role of American markets in global finance.

Many influential voices in China would like to see Chinese companies eventually come back to China to be listed, but few would argue that China’s stock markets are yet sufficiently well-developed to satisfy the demand. Hong Kong could be a beneficiary, if the delisting scenario Gillis outlines were indeed to take place.

Meanwhile, the auditing battleground will soon be redefined, because the Big Four accounting firms face imminent Chinese regulatory deadlines forcing them to restructure into limited partnerships with at least 60% ownership in the hands of locally qualified accountants. This deadline date arises at different times for each of the Big Four, as the initial 20-year lifespan of their current joint ventures expire. First up is KPMG, in August, 2012, with Ernst & Young and Deloitte later this year.

Following the upcoming reorganizations, each of the four must obtain approval from the PCAOB, which has a rule stipulating no approval can be granted to accounting firms from countries which do not permit inspections. Without PCAOB approval, they will not be permitted to audit US listed Chinese companies or participate in any significant way in the audit of a US listed MNC.

To further complicate matters, China’s State Administration of Commerce and Industry (SAIC) began a crackdown on access to Chinese company corporate filings in February, 2012, apparently in response to the much-publicized negative impact of short-sellers of Chinese stocks like Muddy Waters and Citroen Research.

The impact of this crackdown, which appears to be ongoing, extends far beyond would-be short-sellers of overseas listed Chinese companies. Due diligence of the sort that MNCs and other corporate would routinely pursue in connection with M&A activity in China also relies heavily on corporate filings. The SAIC restrictions have thus crippled the due diligence efforts of companies that specialize in this kind of work, as well as potential new M&A activity.

For the time being, therefore, while storm clouds linger over US listed Chinese companies, both the Chinese company IPO and M&A markets seem to be squarely in the middle of a long, cold summer.


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