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The head of China’s securities regulator signalled at the weekend he would not countenance listed firms acting as “iron cockerels” – that is, not paying out dividends to investors.
Liu Shiyu, chair of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, rattled off a laundry list of warnings and advice on Saturday at a meeting of the China Association for Public Companies – including an admonition against failing to pay out dividends.
“There are companies that listed in 1994 and still haven’t paid out dividends,” Mr Liu said, according to state news outlet Xinhua, which framed his warning as targeting companies that act like “iron cockerels” – a Chinese phrase for cheapskates.
“The CSRC is already paying close attention to this problem – we won’t fail to ensure accountability, and will respond with firm measures as warranted,” he added.
According to Bloomberg data, 330 profitable companies listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen paid out nothing last year – roughly 10 per cent of all companies.
Payout ratios – the amount of profit paid out to shareholder each year – are also low, at about 35 per cent. While that is roughly in line with global emerging markets, where in theory the funds are reinvested to grow the company, it pales next to developed markets such as the US, where the S&P 500 pays out 54 per cent.
Among seven other aphorisms issued by the regulatory chief: “stockholding hierarchy is too complex; it can provide opportunities for insider trading” and “the Xiong’an New Area is a major opportunity; listed companies must not stir up trouble.”
That last warning comes after companies from Hebei like cement manufacturer BBMG saw shares skyrocket last week on word that the province would host a new special development zone announced by President Xi Jinping.