Hong Kong eases travel controls for major listed companies

HONG KONG — Hong Kong is easing travel restrictions to allow executives of the city’s largest listed companies to travel between the territory and mainland China on essential business, the secretary for financial services and the treasury announced on Monday.

The measure applies to 480 listed companies, with each company allowed to send two management personnel to the city every month for important affairs — including the signing of deals and attending general meetings — without undergoing the 14-day compulsory quarantine, said Christopher Hui, the newly appointed official.

“We strive to balance the need of safeguarding public health and promoting Hong Kong’s economic development. The new scheme will facilitate directors or executives of sizable Hong Kong-listed companies to perform business activities that are essential to their operation,” Hui said. “This is conducive to maintaining the normal business operation of these enterprises under the very dynamic and challenging business environment.” 

Hong Kong’s economy is reeling from coronavirus-related restrictions and last year’s anti-government protests. In the first quarter of 2020, the city posted its biggest-ever quarterly economic contraction, dropping 8.9% compared with the same period a year earlier.

The 480 companies are constituents of the benchmark Hang Seng Index and other popular stock indexes, and collectively account for about 95% of the total market capitalization of the Hong Kong bourse. The plan will cover multinational companies including HSBC and insurer AIA, as well as Chinese internet heavyweights such as Tencent and Alibaba.

More than half of the companies listed on the Hong Kong exchange are from mainland China, making cross-border travel essential for maintaining business operations.

Hui said the move is aimed at rebooting the city’s battered economy by facilitating dealmaking and other business activities, which have been stalled. The relaxation will take effect immediately, he said.

Last month, the government also granted quarantine exemptions for local auditors who need to visit mainland Chinese companies, as well as for directors coming to Hong Kong to attend initial public offering hearings. About 110 applications for exemptions have been received so far, according to Hui.

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