Coronavirus-related arrangements may affect licensing applications response time, SFC warns

Maria Nikolova

The work arrangements implemented in response to coronavirus infection risks may affect some licensing and product applications, as well as public complaints and enquiry services, the Hong Kong regulator warns.

Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) today announced changes to its staffing arrangements to limit coronavirus infection risks. These arrangements involve some staff working from home or remotely.

The SFC warns that it is possible that response times in some areas may be longer than normal. This may affect, for example, some licensing applications, some product applications, and the SFC’s public complaints and enquiry services.

The regulator notes that it is aware that some licensed corporations and applicants may experience operational difficulties during this period. If entities encounter specific difficulties arising from the coronavirus situation, they are encouraged to communicate promptly with their usual contact points at the SFC.

Yesterday, the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited and the SFC provided guidance to listed companies and their auditors in relation to the disclosure of financial information in view of travel and other restrictions that have arisen in response to the outbreak of a novel coronavirus.

Travel and other restrictions related the recent virus outbreak may disrupt the reporting or audit processes of certain issuers. If a listed issuer believes there is a real possibility that, as a result of these restrictions, it will be unable to publish a preliminary announcement of results (or, as the case may be, issue audited financial statements) in accordance with the relevant requirement under the Rules Governing the Listing of Securities on The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (the Listing Rules), it should contact the Exchange as early as possible to discuss the situation.

An affected issuer is anticipated to provide the Exchange with, to the extent possible:

  • (1) a description of the travel and other restrictions which have affected its auditing or reporting process,
  • (2) where available, an account of why these restrictions have meant that it is unable to comply with the relevant reporting requirements set out in the Listing Rules,
  • (3) the financial information that it is nevertheless still able to report on, and
  • (4) explain whether the accuracy, completeness and presentation of the financial information available is believed to have been adversely affected and, if so, to what extent.

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