Caixin
Mar 26, 2020 08:36 PM
FINANCE

Now Even Stock Exchanges Can’t Hold Gatherings Because of the Virus

The pandemic has yet to dampen companies’ enthusiasm for listing in Hong Kong. Photo: VCG
The pandemic has yet to dampen companies’ enthusiasm for listing in Hong Kong. Photo: VCG
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A guest attending a company’s listing ceremony at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange has tested positive for the coronavirus, the exchange’s operator said.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd. (HKEx) is now contacting everyone else who attended the ceremony on Friday and has thoroughly sterilized and cleaned Connect Hall, where the event took place, according to a statement Caixin obtained from the operator on Wednesday.

HKEx has not held any activities at the hall since Friday’s event, according to the statement. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation as it develops,” the operator said.

The bourse operator didn’t identify the infected person, though the ceremony has been identified as being for SG Group Holdings Ltd., which was transferring its listing to the stock exchange’s main board from the Growth Enterprise Market.

Typically, bankers, accountants, exchange staff, company executives and other guests gather at Connect Hall to witness the ceremonial striking of the gong, which marks the start of a company’s new listing in Hong Kong. The over-30,000-square-foot hall is where HKEx holds listing ceremonies and important exhibitions and conferences.

On Monday, HKEx advised companies to hold their listing ceremonies online due to the coronavirus outbreak. That day, Beijing-based biotech company InnoCare Pharma Ltd. became the first company to hold its listing ceremony online. The two-minute recorded broadcast featured short speeches by company chairwoman and CEO Jasmine Cui and a virtual ringing of the gong.

The Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges have also encouraged companies to move their listing ceremonies to the internet, including through livestreaming. On Feb. 24, snack chain Bestore Co. Ltd., which is based in Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s coronavirus outbreak, held an online listing ceremony (link in Chinese) for its IPO on the Shanghai exchange. It was the first company to do so on the Chinese mainland since the outbreak started.

The coronavirus outbreak that began in December has been largely brought under control in China, but it is spreading rapidly outside the country. As of Thursday evening, the virus has infected more than 480,000 people worldwide, including over 21,000 deaths.

But the epidemic has yet to dampen companies’ enthusiasm for listing in Hong Kong. HKEx welcomed 24 new stock listings in the first two months this year, about the same number as the same period in 2019.

“Sharp market declines can be alarming, but these movements are a reflection of our circumstances,” Charles Li, HKEx’s chief executive, wrote in a column on Tuesday. “I, too, find the sell-off difficult to watch, but closing our markets, or enacting temporary barriers, is not the solution.”

“Draconian measures often only mask or delay the inevitable response of markets to the prevailing conditions and amplify the anxiety, panic, and fear that we feel,” he said.

Contact reporter Tang Ziyi (ziyitang@caixin.com) and editor Michael Bellart (michaelbellart@caixin.com)

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