February 16, 2018

SEC Blocks Chinese Takeover Of Chicago Stock Exchange

In a decision that many had anticipated, the SEC Thursday night officially rejected a proposal from a Chinese investment group to purchase the Chicago Stock Exchange - which handles a tiny 1% of daily order volume - in an acquisition that would have created a conduit for a Chinese entity to exert more control over IPOs of China-based companies in the US, where markets are significantly more open to international investors than in China. Hundreds of small companies are waiting to list in China, where they're being held up by red tape.

The CSE buyers group included Chongqing Casin Enterprise Group Co. and a consortium of US based investors after two original Chinese members of the investor group dropped out late last year after the deal appeared to stall.

As Bloomberg explains, the small transaction would nevertheless have allowed a Chinese company to gain an important foothold in US financial markets, even as the Congress in recent years has passed laws trying to make it easier for companies to go public. The exchange planned to leverage the Jumpstart Our Business Startups, i.e. JOBS, Act, a 2012 law Congress passed to make it easier for smaller companies to go public.

It was reported late last year that the White House was exerting pressure to block the deal. SEC staff had reportedly wanted to approve the deal, but the new chairman, Jay Clayton, froze the agency's pending decision to approve back in August - a rare move for a new commissioner.

The deal, a Chinese takeover of an institution in the American financial markets, has drawn fierce political opposition as Trump pushes back against unfair trade practices with several measures indirectly and directly  aimed at China.

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