UBS sees ‘business as normal’ as it fights Hong Kong ban on IPO sponsorships

The 18-month duration of UBS’s suspension is longer than the six months that many bankers in Hong Kong had expected. (Reuters)
Updated 12 March 2018
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UBS sees ‘business as normal’ as it fights Hong Kong ban on IPO sponsorships

HONG KONG: UBS has told staff that it is “business as normal,” after the Swiss bank revealed on Friday it is fighting an 18-month suspension in Hong Kong from leading initial public offerings (IPOs).
In an internal memo sent by Andrea Orcel and David Chin, global and Asia-Pacific heads of UBS’s investment bank, respectively, and seen by Reuters, the bank told staff that until its appeal was heard “we are business as normal” and that it could still sponsor IPOs.
UBS disclosed the suspension by Hong Kong’s securities regulator, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), in its annual report released on Friday, and added it planned to appeal the decision as well as a HK$119 million ($15.18 million) fine handed out to it.
The bank did not specify what led to the suspension and the fine but said the regulator had been investigating UBS’s role as a sponsor of some IPOs listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and that the actions related to one of the offerings under investigation.
UBS, on Monday, declined to comment on the memo.
The Swiss bank is a leading IPO bank in Hong Kong and the threat of suspension comes as the city — Asia-Pacific’s most lucrative in terms of IPO fees for international banks — is gearing up for a series of potential blockbuster floats.
Hong Kong IPOs need at least one sponsoring bank and sponsors typically lead the work — collecting a larger proportion of the fees — as the deal progresses. Any company forced to change sponsor during its IPO process — such as because of a sponsor’s suspension — must begin the whole listing process all over again, potentially adding months of work.
The 18-month duration of UBS’s suspension is longer than the six months that many bankers in Hong Kong had expected.
In the memo, UBS said that it would still be able to work on IPOs, including as a joint global coordinator — a rung lower than sponsoring — even if the proposed suspension is upheld.
The bank also told staff that it expected the full hearing of the appeal to be held in the fourth quarter of this year and a final decision to made early in 2019.
The proposed punishments stem from an investigation by the SFC into the listing of China Forestry in 2009. The company was suspended in 2011 and is now being wound down.
The China Forestry IPO was sponsored by UBS and Standard Chartered. On Friday, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Appeals Tribunal granted the two banks an extension for their appeals against the SFC’s actions, but did not specify the punishments.
Standard Chartered, which closed its Hong Kong equities unit in 2015, declined to comment.
UBS has been a leading sponsor of IPOs for each of the past 10 years, sponsoring 10 percent of all companies that have listed on Hong Kong’s main board over that period, according to data from Dealogic.
Since the news broke in 2016 of the SFC’s investigation into both banks, UBS’s sponsorship share has fallen to 3 percent of total main board IPOs in 2016 and 2 percent in 2017.


US-Saudi business council reports $13bn in contracts

Updated 24 May 2019
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US-Saudi business council reports $13bn in contracts

  • Improved oil prices, combined with a government focus on spending, contributed to the rise, the council said

LONDON: The value of joint Saudi-US contracts rose to $13 billion in the first quarter of 2019, according to a business council report.

That marked the highest value of awarded contracts since the first quarter of 2015, the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council said.

The value of contracts awarded during the first quarter amounted to about half of the total value in all of last year, it added.

The contracts “included many vital projects, notably in the oil, gas, water and transport sectors,” Abdallah Jum’ah, the co-chair of the council, was reported as saying by Asharq Al-Awsat.

Energy was the top sector, with $3.1 billion of the value of contracts awarded, with many struck by Saudi Aramco. 

Improved oil prices, combined with a government focus on spending, contributed to the rise, the council said.

The construction sector also looks set for a recovery after many projects were put on hold due to the oil-price crash.

“If the pace of awarding construction contracts witnessed during the first quarter of 2019 continues for the rest of the year, the index of awarding construction contracts may return to the range we witnessed before the canceling and postponing of mega projects due to lower oil revenue,” the council said.