Guest of SG Group’s March 20 share listing ceremony at the Hong Kong stock exchange tests positive for the coronavirus

Enoch Yiu

A guest who attended the March 20 listing ceremony by SG Group Holdings at the Hong Kong stock exchange has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the bourse operator.

The infected person was among the bankers, accountants and company executives gathered to witness the ceremonial striking of the gong to mark the trading commencement of SG Group’s shares on the Main Board of the exchange, in an upgrade from the smaller GEM board.

Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Limited (HKEX) is contacting every attendee of the March 20 event, and has arranged a deep cleaning of the Connect Hall in the bourse, said a spokesman of the exchange operator, declining to divulge the identity of the infected guest. The exchange’s Chief Executive Charles Li Xiaojia did not attend the ceremony, he added.

The Connect Hall was established after the trading floor of the exchange was closed in 2017 when all trading had shifted electronically.

SG Group, an apparel producer, was first listed on the GEM in 2017 at HK$6.40 per share. More than 10 executives who attended the listing ceremony were tested for the coronavirus, and were confirmed to be negative, according to a company staff member, who did not want his name to be used.

The episode shows how even the financial services industry is under pressure to practise social distancing to avoid spreading the coronavirus, as the global pandemic gathers pace. Hong Kong, the world’s largest market for initial public offerings (IPO) for the seventh year in 11, typically marks every trading debut with the ceremonial striking of the metal percussion instrument, similar to the ringing of the bell on the New York Stock Exchange. During the IPO boom of the last two years, as many as eight companies shared the stage at Connect Hall to strike the gong on a single day. Even as recently as January 16, seven IPOs took place in one day.

Listing in the time of coronavirus has gone fully digital since late January. InnoCare Pharma, a Beijing-based pharmaceutical producer, this week became the first company to complete its HK$2.2 billion (US$289 million)IPO process – from road show for investors to the actual commencement of trading –entirely online. Its virtual IPO did not deter investors from snapping up its shares, causing them to be overbought by 300 times. SC Group’s shares rose 0.7 per cent to HK$6.95 in Hong Kong, unchanged from its debut price on the main board last week.

Already, the exchanges of Shanghai and Shenzhen are conducting virtual listings. More companies may adopt the contactless, virtual IPOs, as Hong Kong hunkers down for imported cases of the coronavirus, as global travellers arrive in the city from infected regions. More than 400 people have caught the pathogen in Hong Kong, with a death toll of four.

C-Link Squared, a Malaysian provider of outsourcing services, as well as an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks iron ore futures will trade for the first time on Friday on the HKEX. Their executives would have to wait to strike the ceremonial gong, as the listing celebration has been postponed.

“The health and safety of our employees and guests remain our top priority. We will continue to monitor developments and review our arrangements as required,” the HKEX spokesman said.

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