China oil majors may be U.S. target after Telcos delisting

Chinese oil majors may be next in line for delisting in the U.S. after the New York Stock Exchange said last week it would remove the Asian nation’s three biggest telecom companies.

China’s largest offshore oil producer CNOOC Ltd. could be most at risk as it’s on the Pentagon’s list of companies it says are owned or controlled by Chinese military, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Henik Fung. PetroChina Co. and China Petroleum and Chemical Corp., also known as Sinopec, may also be under threat as the energy sector is crucial to China’s military, he said.

“More Chinese companies could get delisted in the U.S. and the oil majors could come as the next wave,” said Steven Leung, executive director at UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong. At the same time, the impact of removing the telecom firms is probably minimal as they were thinly traded in the U.S. and they haven’t raised much funds there, he said.

A Sinopec spokesperson declined to comment. Cnooc and PetroChina didn’t immediately comment, although Cnooc said in a Hong Kong exchange filing that it was not aware of any reasons for the “unusual” drop in its share price Monday. Cnooc fell 1.8 per cent Monday while PetroChina was unchanged. Sinopec rose 1.7 per cent.

The three firms are mostly traded in Hong Kong, although they each have American depositary receipts listed in New York. Trading volumes are much higher in Hong Kong, according to exchange data. Cnooc’s ADRs fell 1.8 per cent at 6:05 a.m. New York time in premarket trading, while PetroChina and Sinopec hadn’t traded.

“The bottom line is the impact will be very limited,” said Neil Beveridge, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in Hong Kong. “Most institutional investors invest through the Hong Kong shares rather than the U.S. ADRs. The biggest downside for investors would be the loss of transparency from SEC filings.”

Cnooc’s appearance on the Pentagon list is possibly due to its drilling activity in the fraught South China Sea, said Leo Ho, an analyst with Daiwa Capital Markets. If that’s the case, PetroChina and Sinopec would be at less risk of U.S. action, he said.

The NYSE said it would delist the telecom operators to comply with a U.S. executive order imposing restrictions on companies identified as affiliated with the Chinese military. China Mobile Ltd., China Telecom Corp Ltd. and China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. would all be suspended from trading between Jan. 7 and Jan. 11, and proceedings to delist them have started, the exchange said.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed an order in November barring American investments in Chinese firms owned or controlled by the military in a bid to pressure Beijing over what it views as abusive business practices. The order prohibited U.S. investors from buying and selling shares in a list of Chinese companies designated by the Pentagon as having military ties.

China’s government will adopt necessary measures to safeguard the rights and interests of the nation’s companies, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily briefing in Beijing on Monday.

“China firmly opposes the U.S. government’s behavior of politicizing trade issues, and abusing its national power and concept of national security to oppress Chinese companies,” Hua said. “This is in serious violation of the principle of market competition and international trade rules.”

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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