Foreign Banks Will Gain Limited Access To China
China is cracking open the door for foreign investment banks seeking entree into China's booming stock market -- but just barely, at least for now.
In coming days, China's securities regulator is expected to outline rules for global investment banks looking to set up joint ventures to tap the country's domestic exchanges. Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group have already signed preliminary agreements for new joint ventures that will be governed by these rules.
Foreign investment banks will be able to take a maximum 33% stake in new local underwriting joint ventures, a cap that could be raised to 49% over time, according to a person briefed by Chinese regulators on the plans. The new joint ventures initially will be limited to underwriting activity, for an unspecified 'seasoning period' after which regulators can decide whether to grant other licenses that extend their range of business to include proprietary trading, brokerage services and asset management, the person said.
At the same time, foreign investors will also be allowed to invest in established Chinese brokerages with smaller stakes and less control. The new rules for foreign investment in existing brokerages are likely to be modeled on control limits for investors in Chinese commercial banks, the person briefed by regulators said.
In China, individual foreign investors are allowed to own up to 20% of a domestic commercial bank. Total foreign investment in a single domestic bank is capped at 25%.
The China Securities Regulatory Commission didn't reply to a request for comment. In a statement earlier this month, it said the new rules would 'relax restrictions' on foreign equity participation in domestic securities firms and 'clearly define the conditions and sequence for progressively expanding the scope of securities joint-ventures.'
The new rules give future entrants into the onshore market less access than what the two major foreign players that currently manage securities joint-ventures in China -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and UBS AG -- have. Both banks won key approvals for local joint ventures before regulators shut the door on other applicants in late 2005. A few other smaller joint-venture securities firms exist in China but don't have the profile of those run by Goldman and UBS.
The narrower scope for newcomers may disappoint foreign bankers eager for rapid access to a broad range of business on Chinese exchanges. China's new relaxation follows talks with U.S. officials led by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the former head of Goldman Sachs, during which opening up the country's booming capital markets to foreign participation was a major discussion topic.
This year, more money has been raised in initial public offerings on the Shanghai stock exchange than on any other in the world. Chinese companies have raised $55.3 billion in 2007 through IPOs in Shanghai.
Global investment banks without a domestic joint-venture have long courted Chinese business from outposts in Hong Kong, connecting Chinese firms to the international capital flowing through the Hong Kong or U.S. exchanges. With the Chinese government pushing the development of the domestic markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen, global investment banks haven't been able to reap the rewards of China's domestic stock boom.
Credit Suisse's proposed joint venture is with Founder Group, a Beijing-based conglomerate. Morgan Stanley is teaming up with Shanghai-based China Fortune Securities Co. to create a venture.
Morgan Stanley also owns a passive 34% stake in China's first joint-venture securities firm, China International Capital Corp. It is unclear whether it will be allowed to keep its stake in CICC and form the new venture with China Fortune Securities. Wayne Fu, a spokesman for Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong, declined to comment.
预计中国的证券监管机构将在近日起草完成有关跨国投资银行在华成立合资证券公司的规定。摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)和瑞士信贷集团(Credit Suisse Group)已经分别签署了成立合资公司的初步协议，将根据这些新规定进行落实。
中国证券监督管理委员会(China Securities Regulatory Commission)未回复记者的采访申请。在本月初发表的声明中，中国证监会表示，新规定将对境外资本参股国内证券公司进一步放松条件，还将明确合资证券公司逐步扩大业务范围的条件和程序。
新规则对后来者进入国内市场的开放程度不如已在华成立合资证券公司的高盛集团(Goldman Sachs Group)和瑞士银行(UBS AG)。在2005年下半年监管机构对其它申请者关闭大门之前，这两家银行就获准在中国成立合资公司。在中国还有一些较小的合资证券公司，但其规模和影响都无法同高盛和瑞银的合资公司相比。
瑞士信贷计划同北京的方正集团(Founder Group)合资。摩根士丹利则希望与上海华鑫证券(China Fortune Securities Co.)成立合资公司。
摩根士丹利目前被动持有中国首家合资证券公司中国国际金融有限公司(China International Capital Corp.) 34%的股权。尚不清楚摩根士丹利是否会获准继续持有中金公司的股份、同时与华鑫证券成立一家新的合资公司。摩根士丹利驻香港发言人傅望羊(Wayne Fu)对此不予置评。