ASIA: China to ban online brokers from offering offshore trading to mainland clients.

As published on reuters.com, Friday 17 December, 2021.

HONG KONG, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Chinese regulators are planning to ban online brokerages such as Futu Holdings Ltd (FUTU.O) and UP Fintech Holding Ltd from offering offshore trading services to mainland clients due to concerns about data security and capital outflows, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The Nasdaq-listed Chinese firms are two of the biggest players in this sector and a ban would block millions of retail investors in mainland China from trading securities easily in markets such as the United States and Hong Kong.

Firms are likely to be notified of a ban in "the coming months," said one of four sources who spoke with Reuters. All sources declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak with media.

Futu and UP Fintech, in business since 2011 and 2014 respectively, allow mainland clients to open offshore accounts using personal information such as local ID cards, bank cards and tax records.

Both are registered with the Securities and Futures Commission in Hong Kong but that permit does not extend to the mainland. No mainland licence exists for online brokerages specialising in cross-border trades, the sources said.

Futu, a $5.5 billion company by market value, said in a statement to Reuters it has been communicating with Chinese authorities but has not received any formal orders along the lines of those suggested by Reuters reporting. It added that it is operating normally.

It flagged in a prospectus for a follow-on share offering in April that its business could be affected by a change in stance on the part of authorities who have wide discretion in interpreting regulations.

UP Fintech, which is valued at $737 million, said it has been following rules laid out by global regulators and will comply with and implement any new rules.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) and the central bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chinese authorities raised concerns about "cross-border" brokerages in October, exacerbating declines in shares in both firms which have plunged more than 80% since this year's peak in February.

Chinese authorities have been clamping down on a wide range of sectors over the past year and data security has emerged as a key concern.

In October, the official People's Daily warned that the vast amounts of information collected by these brokerages was at risk if data were to be required by authorities like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. read more

Authorities are also concerned about capital outflows and are worried that the firms' rapidly growing businesses could run afoul of China's agenda on foreign exchange control, three of the sources said.

Futu executives have been lobbying authorities including the CSRC, SAFE and the central bank but have yet to receive any positive feedback, according to two sources.

A ban would affect a big chunk of business at firms like Futu, the two sources said. About 40% of Futu's clients have opened their trading accounts with Chinese ID cards, said one of them. Most other accounts have been opened by those with U.S., Singapore and Hong Kong IDs.

Backed by gaming and social media giant Tencent Holdings (0700.HK), Futu had 2.6 million clients as of end-September who had opened one or more trading accounts.

Futu's trading turnover rose to HK$1.4 trillion ($179 billion) in the July-September quarter from HK$1.01 trillion in the same period a year ago, with trade in U.S. and Hong Kong stocks accounting for more than 90% of that.

Individuals can still open new accounts on Futu with mainland ID cards, but the company now insists those clients have overseas bank accounts, according to one source.

Apart from services offered by brokerages like Futu and UP Fintech, mainland investors can only invest in securities outside China through so-called Qualified Domestic Institutional Investors (QDII) schemes as well as connect schemes that link the Hong Kong and mainland stock markets. Both schemes are tightly regulated.

AFRICA: Nigeria Rallies Other…