The Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Wednesday that could lead to Chinese companies such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Baidu Inc. being barred from listing on U.S. stock exchanges amid increasingly tense relations between the world’s two largest economies.
The bill, introduced by Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, and Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, was approved by unanimous consent and would require companies to certify that they are not under the control of a foreign government.
U.S. lawmakers have raised red flags over the billions of dollars flowing into some of China’s largest corporations, much of it from pension funds and college endowments in search of fat investment returns. Alarm has grown in particular that American money is bankrolling efforts by the country’s technology giants to develop leading positions in everything from artificial intelligence and autonomous driving to internet data collection.
Shares in some of the biggest U.S.-listed Chinese firms, including Baidu and Alibaba, slid Thursday in New York while the broader market gained.
If a company can’t show that it is not under such control or the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or PCAOB, isn’t able to audit the company for three consecutive years to determine that it is not under the control of a foreign government, the company’s securities would be banned from the exchanges.
“I do not want to get into a new Cold War,” Kennedy said on the Senate floor, adding that he wants “China to play by the rules.”
“Publicly listed companies should all be held to the same standards, and this bill makes common sense changes to level the playing field and give investors the transparency they need to make informed decisions,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “I’m proud that we were able to pass it today with overwhelming bipartisan support, and I urge our House colleagues to act quickly.”
Stricter U.S. oversight could potentially affect the future listing plans of major private Chinese corporations from Jack Ma’s Ant Financial to SoftBank-backed ByteDance Ltd. But since discussions on increased disclosure requirements began last year, many other Chinese companies have either listed in Hong Kong already or plan to do so, said James Hull, a Beijing-based analyst and portfolio manager with Hullx.