Videogame maker NetEase (NTES) (HK:9999) and online-retail marketplace JD.com (JD) (HK:9618) will get a boost in liquidity for their Hong Kong shares, to the detriment of their U.S. listings. That's because index provider MSCI has decided to switch the stock that it includes in its products.
The change will take place on Nov. 30. The decision is a result of MSCI's Semi-Annual Index Review.
NetEase shares have jumped 3.0% Monday in Hong Kong, and are up 3.5% including mild gains on Friday. JD.com, which has also just reported impressive earnings, is up 11.1% since Thursday's close, including a 1.6% gain Monday.
The move reflects the recent reshoring of listings away from New York "back home" to Hong Kong, nearer the actual headquarters and operations of the companies. With both Beijing and Washington putting pressure on Chinese listings in the United States, it is increasingly attractive for U.S.-listed Chinese companies to at least open an escape hatch by offering shares in Hong Kong in a secondary listing, or a joint primary listing.
MSCI's move follows a similar decision on the stock of Alibaba Group Holdings (BABA) (HK:9988). The switch took effect on May 28, with MSCI starting to use the Hong Kong listing instead of the U.S. listing in MSCI Global Standard Indexes.
The NetEase and JD.com switch will affect the MSCI Global Investable Market Indexes as well as the MSCI Overseas China indexes such as the MSCI China ex-Foreign Listing Index. Technically, MSCI will change the security name and the MSCI code for the two companies, switching to the Hong Kong equities. The applicable indexes will then start tracking the Hong Kong price instead of the U.S. price.
The MSCI review decided that the Hong Kong listings met the requirements necessary for inclusion in MSCI indexes. To qualify, the Hong Kong ordinary shares must have a 12-month annual traded value ratio above twice the minimum requirement for emerging-market listings, which is 15%. In other words, the total trade volume as a percentage of market capitalization over the course of the prior 12 months must be above the threshold.
NetEase held a secondary listing in Hong Kong in June 2020, raising US$3.1 billion, with JD.com following days later and selling US$4.4 billion in Hong Kong stock.
Those moves came after Alibaba raised US$12.9 billion in November 2019 with an initial public offering in Hong Kong. Alibaba is somewhat unusual in that it has two primary listings, one in New York and one in Hong Kong, rather than a primary and a secondary listing. That adds to compliance costs but gives it even greater flexibility.
Rival index provider Hang Seng set up an index in July 2020 to track the newly influential tech sector in Hong Kong, a market that had previously been dominated by banks and property developers, very traditional businesses. The new Hang Seng Tech Index also includes companies such as WeChat app operator and videogame maker Tencent Holdings (HK:0700) (TCTZF) , the mobile-phone maker Xioami (HK:1810) (XIACF) and group-buying and grocery app Meituan (HK:3690) (MPNGY), which have primary listings in Hong Kong and an ADR secondary listing in the United States.
Hang Seng has given its own boost to JD.com and NetEase, deciding that it will start including the companies in the main Hang Seng Index, the foremost benchmark for the Hong Kong stock market, as of Dec. 6. Brewer China Resources Beer (HK:0291) and gas utility ENN Energy Holdings (HK:2688) will also be added to the Hang Seng, which will rise to 64 components from 60.
There were 248 Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges when the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission ran a count in May. You can find that list here.
About a dozen of the ADRs that are tracked in MSCI indexes are Chinese companies that have a Hong Kong listing as well as their U.S. stock. All are candidates for the same treatment by MSCI.
FTSE Russell, the London-based index provider, made the same decision at the end of August, to stop using the U.S. listing and start using the Hong Kong listing for JD.com, NetEase and the small-cap e-commerce third-party operator Baozun (BZUN) (HK:9991).
The change means that passive exchange-traded funds and other asset-management products that track the MSCI indexes will have to change their holding, selling the U.S. stock and buying the Hong Kong stock to replace it.
The Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Friday released the results of a public consultation into its listing regime, tweaking the rules to make it a little easier for companies with an overseas listing to list in Hong Kong. Companies can now qualify with a market cap of HK$3 billion (US$385 million) if they've been listed overseas in good standing for five years, or HK$10 billion (US$1.3 billion) if listed overseas for two years. Previously the requirement was as high as a market cap of HK$40 billion (US$5.1 billion).