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Trading Group Quits Exchange in Hong Kong

March 24, 1994|From Reuters

HONG KONG — Hong Kong's oldest colonial trading group, Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd., said Wednesday that it would quit the local stock exchange in a dispute linked with the colony's 1997 return to China.

The company said it will discontinue the secondary listing of its ordinary shares from the Hong Kong bourse on Dec. 31. Its shares will continue to trade in London, where they have had their primary listing since 1992, and on other markets.

Chairman Henry Keswick denied that the move indicated a loss of confidence in Hong Kong.

"I would emphasize that our decision is related to the regulatory position of the company and does not signal any lack of confidence in the future of Hong Kong itself. Indeed, we hope that one day it will again be possible for our shares to be listed in Hong Kong," Keswick said.

"The Jardine Matheson Group has traded in and with Hong Kong and China for a century and a half. Now that a new era is beginning, we are as confident as ever in Hong Kong's future as a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China," he said.

Jardine, which was already trading on the south China coast before Hong Kong's foundation as a British colony in the early 1840s, has fought a long but unsuccessful battle to avoid being regulated in the territory after it returns to China in 1997.

The company, whose management is predominantly British, in 1984 shocked a Hong Kong already jittery about its political future by moving its legal home to Bermuda.

The group now wants to be regulated by a new Bermuda takeover code rather than Hong Kong regulations, but has failed to reach agreement with the colony's authorities.

But Jardine has also long suffered bad relations with China.

In 1992, Beijing blasted the company after London-based director Sir Charles Powell, once a close aide of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was quoted as supporting Gov. Chris Patten's drive for democratic reform.

In its attack, the official New China Xinhua News Agency raised Jardine Matheson's origins as an opium trader, a business that which provoked two wars between Britain and China leading to the foundation and expansion of Hong Kong.

Jardine Group is now involved in a wide range of businesses from property and supermarkets automobile dealerships motor dealers and hotels.

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