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China joint venture timetable is still on track

Many thought the trade war would have derailed the promise by the CSRC to let foreigners fully own their mainland securities operations.


How to read the latest loosening of the rules on Sino-foreign joint ventures? Last week the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) spelled out a timetable for lifting foreign shareholder caps on securities companies, among other things, stating that from December 1 next year, foreigners will be able to take full ownership of their JVs.

Subject to approval, of course, which is a whole other thing.

If you haven’t read much about this apparent landmark, it’s because it simply gives an implementing timetable to something already agreed. 

The bigger deal was when the CSRC allowed foreigners to move to 51% majority stakes for the first time, announced in November 2017 with greater detail following in April 2018. UBS was the first to gain approval in December 2018. At the time of that first announcement, it was said that full ownership should be permitted by 2021.

Yet there’s a slight sense of surprise that China has honoured that original timetable. Much has changed in the meantime: the trade war with the US has worsened, both in quantum and rhetoric, and many of the JVs in question – including those for JPMorgan, Citi, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs – are US-backed. 

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