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Chinese insurer Ping An 'open' to extending buybacks to Hong Kong-listed shares

Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. of China Ltd. is open to share buybacks in the Hong Kong stock market, CFO Jason Yao said at a March 13 press conference in the city.

Dual-listed in Shanghai and Hong Kong, the Chinese financial group announced its first-ever share repurchase plan a day earlier. The plan, pending shareholder approval, is expected to allow the company to spend 5 billion to 10 billion yuan of own funds on buybacks of Shanghai-listed shares, known as A-shares.

The repurchase plan follows revisions to rules in China that make it easier for Shanghai-listed companies to buy back shares, Yao told reporters.

"We are confident on our stock prices in the future, so we want to do share buybacks for A-shares first," he added.

Amid market volatility, the China Securities Regulatory Commission published a notice in November 2018 aimed at facilitating repurchases by quality listed companies to promote the "long-term stable and healthy development" of the country's capital market. The Shanghai exchange published further detailed rules for buybacks in January.

Rules on repurchases are stricter for Hong Kong-listed companies, Yao noted, but he said Ping An is "open to" and will "actively study" share buyback plans in Hong Kong.

Ping An capped the price at which it will repurchase A-shares at 101.24 yuan per share, 50% higher than the average share price during the 30 trading days through March 12. Yao said that if the A-share price is higher than 101.24 yuan after the insurer receives shareholder approval, the repurchase plan will not be executed.

Ping An's shares closed at 71.54 yuan per share in Shanghai and HK$84.00 per share in Hong Kong on March 13.

As of March 12, US$1 was equivalent to 6.71 Chinese yuan.