Hong Kong stock exchange bows to tech giants

As a sop to the next Alibaba, Hong Kong toys with the long-standing principle of equal votes for shares.

Ever since Hong Kong lost the massive Alibaba flotation to New York last year, the territory's 10has been determined not to let such a big fish escape again. So it recently launched a consultation on ditching a long-standing principle: that all shares should carry equal votes.

Founder Jack Ma and other insiders control Alibaba without a majority of the votes, and the bourse is wondering whether admitting firms with so-called dual-class shares whereby not all shareholders are equal is the best way to ensure it gets its fair share of future Chinese tech giants to list there.

Good grief, says Robert Boxwell on scmp.com. Does anyone really think "investors need less protection, not more, from the self-proclaimed genius founders of tech companies"? Fund managers have told the exchange that voting rights should remain proportionate to the share of the company, so there is now talk of a possible compromise, says Peter Thal Larsen on breakingviews.com.

Companies wanting to give some shareholders extra say as Google and Facebook do will have to be listing for the first time and accept stricter scrutiny of the board. "The effect is a bit like raising the speed limit on motorways, but only applying the change to large, new cars fitted with extra airbags." However, the Hong Kong market should think again."The willingness to bend established rules jeopardises [its] position."

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