An overview and assessment of the reform of the non-tradable shares of Chinese state-owned enterprise A-share issuers
Paul B. McGuinness
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide an updated and critical assessment of the share reforms relevant to Chinese A-share issuers listed in the two mainland markets of Shanghai and Shenzhen. The reform programme first began in 2005 and has now spread widely across issuers in the two markets. It is therefore timely to assess how effective the reforms have been as well as gauging the ongoing effects of the transformation (of non-tradable scrip into tradable form) on A-share prices. Design/methodology/approach – The “Split Share Structure” reform programme represents a major policy initiative in China and potentially opens-the-door to large-scale state-share disposals. The evidence to date however suggests that the Chinese authorities are primarily concerned with the reconfiguration of the array of share types that presently exist into a more comprehendible, streamlined form. The various checks and balances imposed on controlling shareholders engaged in the transformation of their shares from non-tradable to tradable form suggest that eventual re-designation of the holdings into an unfettered tradable type will not necessarily translate to the state's acquiescence in the disposal of such shares. On the contrary, state holdings in the most strategic of assets are likely to be retained more or less intact. Insights are developed by focusing on examples involving major A-share issuers. In particular, a case study of the Sinopec reform proposal of August/September 2006 is set out to help illuminate the principal features of the reform package. Critical examination of the empirical literature relating to the A-share price effects of the share reform programme also features. Findings – There is little evidence to date of significant stock disposals amongst the largest and most strategic of China's issuers. However, for a number of A-listed issuers, parts of the lock-up moratoria have already expired or are set to do so in the very near future. Given the precipitous fall in A-share prices (in Shanghai and Shenzhen) since late 2007, largely wrought by the enveloping global credit-crunch, the Chinese authorities have an even more compelling case than hitherto to assiduously dampen fears of large-scale state-share disposals. Notwithstanding this, at least a small part of the drop in A-share values during 2008 derives from the building risk-premium on this issue. Research limitations/implications – As the trading moratoria on re-designated shares still applies in most cases, at least in respect of the majority of domestic stock holdings, a clearer picture will not emerge until 2009-2011 when all such moratoria would have lapsed. Originality/value – The discussions in this paper help to bring into focus a highly topical issue within the context of the Chinese equity market.
China, Government policy, Shareholder value analysis, Shareholders, Shares
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