March 9, 2018 / 12:52 PM / 10 days ago

Hong Kong suspends UBS as IPO sponsor for 18 months

ZURICH/HONG KONG, March 9 (Reuters) - Hong Kong’s securities regulator has blocked UBS from sponsoring initial public offerings for 18 months, the Swiss bank said in its annual report released on Friday, adding it planned to appeal against the decision.

The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) had been investigating UBS’s role as a sponsor — or lead underwriter — of some IPOs listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, it said.

“In March 2018, the SFC issued a decision notice in relation to one of the offerings under investigation,” the bank said in its annual report.

“The notice provides for a fine of HKD 119 million ($15.2 million) and a suspension of UBS Securities Hong Kong Limited’s ability to act as a sponsor for Hong Kong listed initial public offerings for 18 months,” it said.

UBS did not specify what led to the fine and suspension.

The SFC declined to comment.

UBS and Standard Chartered disclosed separately in 2016 that they were under investigation by the SFC for their roles as sponsors of unidentified IPOs.

Separately on Friday, the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Appeals Tribunal granted UBS and Standard Chartered an extension for their appeals against the SFC’s actions, but did not specify the reason for the punishments.

Standard Chartered declined comment.

While UBS can in theory still work on IPOs in Hong Kong in more minor roles, the suspension from sponsoring the deals comes just as the city is gearing up for a series of potential blockbuster floats.

Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone and home appliance maker, is expected to seek a valuation of up to $100 billion while other expected notable floats include that of Lufax, the Chinese wealth management platform backed by Ping An, the insurance giant.

$1 = 7.8381 Hong Kong dollars Reporting by Michael Shields in Zurich and Jennifer Hughes in Hong Kong. Editing by Jane Merriman

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