Hong Kong could launch a pilot scheme in 2018 allowing startups valued over $1 billion to list shares with different voting rights on the bourse’s main board, provided there is sufficient investor protection, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Friday, citing two unidentified people.
The scheme represents a departure from the exchange’s long-established ‘one share, one vote’ principle that prompted Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N) to take its record $25 billion IPO to New York in 2014.
Alibaba’s decision was widely regarded as a significant loss for Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd (HKEX) (0388.HK), which operates the bourse, and raised concerns the city could lose its appeal as an international financial center.
Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) objected to plans for weighted voting rights two years ago. But comments from Chief Executive Ashley Alder last year indicated the regulator was now more receptive to different classes of shares.
Under the pilot, firms would have to set various conditions for different classes in their shareholding structure, the SCMP reported. The shares would also be listed under different stock codes for easy identification, the newspaper said.
HKEX and the SFC declined to comment.