Five state-owned Chinese companies, including the country’s leading energy and chemical company, have chosen to delist from the stock exchange in New York by the end of August.
In separate statements issued Friday, China Life Insurance, PetroChina, Sinopec, Aluminum Corporation of China and Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical said they had notified the NYSE and applied for “voluntary delisting.”
All five companies cited “low turnover in the US” and “high administrative burden and costs” as the reason for the departure.
However, the news comes after all five were flagged by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in May, according to Reuters, for failing to meet US auditing standards.
China’s securities watchdog, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said on Friday that it is aware of the situation and that “it is normal for companies to list or delist from any market.”
“We will stay in touch with foreign regulatory institutions and protect the rights of companies and investors together,” it said.
The news comes as the Securities and Exchange Commission ramps up its scrutiny of Chinese companies’ audits.
The commission can delist companies if they fail to allow US watchdogs to inspect their financial audits for three consecutive years. China has for years rejected US audits of its firms.
Chinese companies trading abroad are required to keep their audit papers in mainland China, where they cannot be examined by foreign agencies.
But in April, China’s securities watchdog proposed changing a decade-old rule that prohibits Chinese firms from sharing sensitive data and financial information with foreign regulators. The change could allow US regulators to inspect audit reports from Chinese companies listed in New York.
Still, companies like Alibaba are taking steps to prepare for a potential loss of direct access to the U.S. capital market.
In late July, the Securities and Exchange Commission added Alibaba to a list of more than 150 companies that could be expelled if their audits failed to be inspected over the next three years, joining some of China’s biggest companies such as JD.com and Baidu.
Even before the commission added Alibaba to its watch list, the company announced it would seek a primary listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Currently, Alibaba has a secondary listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
“A primary listing status in Hong Kong gives Chinese ADRs (American Depository Shares) an opportunity to diversify their listing risk and retain access to the public stock market” if they are forced to leave the US, Goldman Sachs analysts said in a recent report.
If the transition goes smoothly for Alibaba, it could “pave the way” for many more Chinese ADRs to pursue a similar transition, Citi analysts said.