A-Share vs H-Shares in China


For those unfamiliar with China's markets, Chinese companies may have Shanghai listed trading as well as Hong Kong listed trading. A-shares are listed on the Shanghai exchange and are largely available only to domestic investors. H-shares are listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange; they are available mainly to non-chinese investors (like QDII, International investors). But in both cases, the origin of business should be Mainland China.

There is a huge price difference at which mainland companies trade in both the exchanges, and interestingly there is no channel to arbitrage. A-shares trade at a huge premium over H-share counterparts (or even what is being quoted in London exchanges). This is largely due to huge imbalances between supply and demand of high quality stocks in China. High restrictions/regulations combined with high demand from newfound investible wealth is pushing premiums up.

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To track this, there is an index called Hang Seng China AH Premium Index" which measures the the spread between the A-shares and H-shares of dual-listed companies domiciled in Mainland China. This means that A-shares as a group are currently trading at a premium of about 80% over the H-shares and that at one point they were trading at a premium of more than 100% !!

The spread is going up constantly, perhaps due to China being a closed market whereas Hong Kong is a fiercly open economy; thus it reacts more sharply to international economic developments. A recent credit crisis left many markets crashing, impacting HK markets as well. Again, the HK currency is pegged to the USD, implying a greater hit for investors!

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