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HKEX chief welcomes secondary listings while China finalises CDRs

By Kane Wu and Alun John

HONG KONG, Aug 1 (Reuters) - The chief executive of Hong Kong's stock exchange said overseas-listed Chinese firms were welcome to tap the territory's market for funds while waiting for mainland China to implement its own secondary listings plan.

Hong Kong's exchange is competing with mainland bourses in Shanghai and Shenzhen to lure the likes of U.S.-listed Baidu Inc , Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and JD.com Inc back to Asia via secondary listings.

To that end, Hong Kong this year eased rules on dual-class and secondary listings, and permitted listings from pre-revenue biotech firms. China established Chinese depositary receipts (CDRs) to provide an "institutional foundation" for innovative firms to list.

So far, no firm has issued CDRs, whereas Nasdaq-listed Beigene will be the first to list under Hong Kong's new secondary listing rules on Aug. 8. The first biotech listing under new rules was that of Ascletis Pharma Inc on Wednesday.

"If many companies have funding needs before CDR happens, they can come to Hong Kong," Charles Li, chief executive of bourse operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd (HKEX) , said at Ascletis' listing ceremony.

Li said he did not know the details of CDR development, and that an institutional innovation of that size would take time.

Some Chinese firms have said they are discussing CDRs with mainland regulators, but none have proposed any concrete listing plans. The firm widely expected to be first to sell CDRs - smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp - indefinitely postponed its CDR plans while it focused on a $4.7 billion initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong in July.

On Tuesday, a Baidu spokeswoman reiterated the internet search firm had considered offering CDRs but had no time table. An Alibaba spokeswoman reiterated the e-commerce firm would actively explore CDR possibilities.


NEW RULES

Hong Kong's rule changes came after Alibaba chose New York for its record $25 billion 2014 IPO. The bourse's one-share-one-vote principle had led it to reject the firm's plan for a self-selecting group of managers to control most of the board.

Aimed at limiting the risk of losing such big IPOs, Hong Kong implemented the new rules in April. So far, Xiaomi is the only firm to list under the new rule for dual-class shares.

Last month, the Shanghai and Shenzhen bourses said mainland investors buying Hong Kong stock through their exchanges would be unable to buy dual-class shares citing the complexity of associated weighting voting rights.

"We have a clear time table at heart, but the three exchanges need to nail down the details to put it into service," Li said on the matter on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Kane Wu; Writing by Alun John; Additional reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Jennifer Hughes and Christopher Cushing)