Delisting of China telcos from NYSE likely to stand, say Wiley Rein lawyers

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The New York Stock Exchange seemed a bit spastic at the beginning of 2021, claiming it would delist three Chinese telcos, then changing its mind, then again changing its mind.

Its final decision was that it would delist trading in China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom Hong Kong. The NYSE halted trading of those three companies on Monday, January 11. And American investors will no longer be able to invest in these companies after November 11, 2021.

NYSE delisted the companies because it determined that the Chinese telcos were covered by an Executive Order from Donald Trump signed on November 12, 2020. The order claims that investments in the telcos could be used by the Chinese military.

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The Trump order claims that China is “increasingly exploiting United States capital to resource and to enable the development and modernization of its military, intelligence and other security apparatuses.”

The order said, “The People’s Republic of China exploits United States’ investors to finance the development and modernization of its military.” And the order points out that even though China’s economy is “ostensibly private,” in fact there is a “military-civil fusion,” and private companies aren’t free to refuse to cooperate with an authoritarian government regime.

Bi-partisan support in Congress

Trump’s tough trade stance against China has been one of his few, if only, policies that enjoys bi-partisan support in Congress.

RELATED: Irony Alert: What if China taps open RAN to breach networks?

New Street Research recently held a call with lawyers from the firm of Wiley Rein who said they don’t believe that President-elect Biden will reverse this order, at least not in the near term. They noted that the incoming National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has made public statements that a Biden administration is unlikely to make wholesale changes to the executive orders facing China.

The trade actions against China include actions against Huawei and ZTE that have been ongoing for four years. The trade actions “are deep and wide-ranging and cut across political grounds,” stated New Street Research in a note today.

There is some concern that the executive order causing the delisting of the three Chinese telcos may be expanded to delist other Chinese companies from the New York Stock Exchange, including China Tower, Alibaba and Tencent. “It would seem that if we get to the inauguration without China Tower on the list then the risk goes down materially, and the same goes for Chinese technology companies such as Tencent or Alibaba,” wrote New Street.

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