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Hong Kong regulator penalizes 4 investment banks for IPO sponsor failures

Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission barred UBS from sponsoring IPOs in the city for one year, as well as reprimanded and fined it and three other investments banks for failing their duties as sponsors in three new listings as far back as 10 years ago.

In a statement released March 14, the securities regulator reprimanded and fined UBS Group AG and UBS Securities Hong Kong Ltd HK$375 million for failing to discharge their obligations as one of the joint sponsors of three IPOs in Hong Kong: China Forestry Holdings Co. Ltd. in 2009, Tianhe Chemicals Group Ltd. in 2014 and another unspecified listing application.

The regulator also partially suspended UBS Securities Hong Kong's license to advise on corporate finance for one year, preventing it from acting as a sponsor for listing application of any securities on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

The SFC also said in separate same-day statements that it reprimanded and fined Morgan Stanley unit Morgan Stanley Asia Ltd. HK$224 million and Bank of America Corp. unit Merrill Lynch Far East Ltd. HK$128 million for failing to discharge their obligations as one of the joint sponsors in the listing of Tianhe Chemicals, while Standard Chartered PLC unit Standard Chartered Securities (Hong Kong) Ltd. was reprimanded and fined HK$59.7 million for the same reason in the listing of China Forestry.

The regulator said these investment banks failed to address red flags while doing prelisting due diligence, such as validating the business dealings between the companies and their customers.