By John McCrank
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Many U.S.-listed Chinese firms will likely list on the Hong Kong exchange this year, in part because of U.S. political pressure following China's new national security legislation on Hong Kong, the head of the exchange said on Thursday.
"This is going to be a big year for IPOs, including both huge IPOs from China, but very substantial returnees, what we call them, from the United States," Charles Li, CEO of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd <0388.HK>, said via webcast at an industry conference held by Piper Sandler.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said his administration would eliminate special treatment for Hong Kong over the new security law, which he said threw Hong Kong's freedoms and function as a finance hub into doubt.
U.S.-listed Chinese companies have also been under pressure due to a lack of accounting transparency, which recently led Nasdaq Inc <NDAQ.O> to introduce restrictions that will make it harder for some Chinese companies to debut on its exchange.
Many Chinese companies that listed in the United States did so because they could not qualify to list on the Hong Kong exchange, which until recently had more restrictive listing standards on issues like governance rights and dual class shares, Li said.
Some such companies still would not qualify to list in Hong Kong, and "we actually don't want them," Li said.
"But all of the great companies that we know that are coming back, they are qualified already," he said, putting an emphasis on technology firms.
A primary or secondary Hong Kong listing would allow these firms to get closer to their main customer base, he said.
"Today the atmosphere in the U.S. is becoming less friendly and we obviously have fundamentally changed many aspects of our listing regime so that we are becoming more accommodating," he said.
(Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)