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Opinion

CLSA and ACGA: Some uncomfortable thoughts on dual-class shares in Asia

The landmark corporate governance (CG) report raises renewed concerns about dual-class structures – which is a bit awkward given CLSA underwrites them.

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For almost 20 years, the CG Watch report produced by the Asian Corporate Governance Association (ACGA) with CLSA has been a useful, scientific, principled and well-written account of environmental, social and governance (ESG) progress in Asia.

It has provided a window on the evolution of issues around independent directors, environmental policy, investor voting behaviour and a host of other CG issues across the enormously diverse markets of Asia-Pacific.

Wednesday’s launch of the characteristically fastidious report started with discussion of the big issue of the day: dual-class listing shares.

During the past year, Singapore and Hong Kong have introduced them, and consequently both markets’ scores fell in the ACGA’s reckoning.

Now, beneath Australia’s untouchable 71% corporate governance score, Hong Kong and Singapore (60% and 59% respectively) are just a shade ahead of corruption-blighted Malaysia (58%), a notable narrowing of their usual advantage.

'Fairness undermined'

Jamie Allen, the ACGA secretary-general and the driving force of the report since the start, left no doubt where he stands on dual-class shares.

“Our feeling now, with the introduction of dual-class shares in particular, is that the issue of fairness is being undermined in Hong Kong, Singapore and some other markets,” he says.




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