Securities transactions by directors
Basic principles (5.46-5.51)
Rules 5.48 to 5.67 set out the required standard against which issuers and their directors must measure their conduct regarding transactions in securities of their issuers (the "required standard of dealings"). Any breach of the required standard of dealings will be regarded as a breach of the GEM Listing Rules. A director must seek to secure that all dealings in which he is or is deemed to be interested are conducted in accordance with the required standard of dealings.
An issuer may adopt its own code on terms no less exacting than the required standard of dealings if it so wishes. Any breach of such code will not be a breach of the GEM Listing Rules unless it is also a breach of the required standard of dealings.
The Exchange regards it as desirable that directors of an issuer should hold securities in the issuer.
Directors wishing to deal in any securities in an issuer must first have regard to the provisions of Part XIII and Part XIV of the Securities and Futures Ordinance with respect to insider dealing and market misconduct. However, there are occasions where directors should not be free to deal in the issuer's securities even though the statutory requirements will not be contravened.
The single most important thrust of the required standard of dealings is that directors who are aware of or privy to any negotiations or agreements related to intended acquisitions or disposals which are notifiable transactions under Chapter 19 or connected transactions under Chapter 20 of the GEM Listing Rules or any inside information must refrain from dealing in the issuer's securities as soon as they become aware of them or privy to them until the information has been announced. Directors who are privy to relevant negotiations or agreements or any inside information should caution those directors who are not so privy that there may be inside information and that they must not deal in the issuer's securities for a similar period.
In addition, a director must not make any unauthorised disclosure of confidential information, whether to co-trustees or to any other person (even those to whom he owes a fiduciary duty) or make any use of such information for the advantage of himself or others.
For the purpose of the required standard of dealings:(1) "dealing" includes, subject to rule 5.52(4), any acquisition, disposal or transfer of, or offer to acquire, dispose of or transfer, or creation of pledge, charge or any other security interest in, any securities of the issuer or any entity whose assets solely or substantially comprise securities of the issuer, and the grant, acceptance, acquisition, disposal, transfer, exercise or discharge of any option (whether call, put or both) or other right or obligation, present or future, conditional or unconditional, to acquire, dispose of or transfer securities, or any interest in securities, of the issuer or any such entity, in each case whether or not for consideration and any agreements to do any of the foregoing, and "deal" shall be construed accordingly;(2) "beneficiary" includes any discretionary object of a discretionary trust (where the director is aware of the arrangement) and any beneficiary of a non-discretionary trust;(3) "securities" means listed securities and any unlisted securities that are convertible or exchangeable into listed securities and structured products (including derivative warrants), such as those described in Chapter 15A of the Main Board Listing Rules, issued in respect of the listed securities of an issuer;(4) notwithstanding the definition of "dealing" under rule 5.52(1), the following dealings are not subject to the required standard of dealings:(a) taking up of entitlements under a rights issue, bonus issue, capitalisation issue or other offer made by the listed issuer to holders of its securities (including an offer of shares in lieu of a cash dividend) but, for the avoidance of doubt, applying for excess shares in a rights issue or applying for shares in excess of an assured allotment in an open offer is a "dealing";(b) allowing entitlements to lapse under a rights issue or other offer made by the issuer to holders of its securities (including an offer of shares in lieu of a cash dividend);(c) undertakings to accept, or the acceptance of, a general offer for shares in the issuer made to shareholders other than those that are concert parties (as defined under the Takeovers Code) of the offeror;(d) exercise of share options or warrants or acceptance of an offer for shares pursuant to an agreement entered into with an issuer before a period during which dealing is prohibited under the required standard of dealings at the pre-determined exercise price, being a fixed monetary amount determined at the time of grant of the share option or warrant or acceptance of an offer for shares;(e) an acquisition of qualification shares where, under the issuer's constitutional documents, the final date for acquiring such shares falls within a period when dealing is prohibited under the required standard of dealings and such shares cannot be acquired at another time;(f) dealing where the beneficial interest or interests in the relevant security of the listed issuer do not change;(g) dealing where a shareholder places out his existing shares in a "top-up" placing where the number of new shares subscribed by him pursuant to an irrevocable, binding obligation equals the number of existing shares placed out and the subscription price (after expenses) is the same as the price at which the existing shares were placed out; and(h) dealing where the beneficial ownership is transferred from another party by operation of law.
For the purpose of the required standard of dealings, the grant to a director of an option to subscribe or purchase his company's securities shall be regarded as a dealing by him, if the price at which such option may be exercised is fixed at the time of such grant. If, however, an option is granted to a director on terms whereby the price at which such option may be exercised is to be fixed at the time of exercise, the dealing is to be regarded as taking place at the time of exercise.
Absolute prohibitions (5.54-5.60)
A director must not deal in any of the securities of the issuer at any time when he possesses inside information in relation to those securities, or where clearance to deal is not otherwise conferred upon him under rule 5.61.
A director must not deal in the securities of an issuer listed on GEM or the Main Board when by virtue of his position as a director of another issuer, he possesses inside information in relation to those securities.
5.56(a) A director must not deal in any securities of the listed issuer on any day on which its financial results are published and:(i) during the period of 60 days immediately preceding the publication date of the annual results or, if shorter, the period from the end of the relevant financial year up to the publication date of the results; and(ii) during the period of 30 days immediately preceding the publication date of the quarterly results and half-year results or, if shorter, the period from the end of the relevant quarterly or half-year period up to the publication date of the results,(b) The listed issuer must notify the Exchange in advance of the commencement of each period during which directors are not allowed to deal under rule 5.56(a).
Note: Directors should note that the period during which they are not allowed to deal under rule 5.56 will cover any period of delay in the publication of a results announcement.
Where a director is a sole trustee, the required standard of dealings will apply to all dealings of the trust as if he were dealing on his own account (unless the director is a bare trustee and neither he nor any of his close associates is a beneficiary of the trust, in which case the required standard of dealings will not apply).
When a director deals in the securities of an issuer in his capacity as a co-trustee and he has not participated in or influenced the decision to deal in the securities and is not, and none of his close associates is, a beneficiary of the trust, dealings by the trust will not be regarded as his dealings.
The required standard of dealings will be regarded as equally applicable to any dealings by the director's spouse or by or on behalf of any minor child (natural or adopted) and any other dealings in which for the purposes of Part XV of the Securities and Futures Ordinance he is or is to be treated as interested. It is the duty of the director, therefore, to seek to avoid any such dealing at a time when he himself is not free to deal.
When a director places investment funds comprising securities of the issuer under professional management, discretionary or otherwise, the managers must nonetheless be made subject to the same restrictions and procedures as the director himself in respect of any proposed dealings in the issuer's securities.
A director must not deal in any securities of the issuer without first notifying in writing the chairman or a director (other than himself) designated by the board for the specific purpose and receiving a dated written acknowledgement. In his own case, the chairman must first notify the board at a board meeting, or alternatively notify a director (other than himself) designated by the board for the purpose and receive a dated written acknowledgement before any such dealing. The designated director must not deal in any securities of the issuer without first notifying the chairman and receiving a dated written acknowledgement. In each case,(1) a response to a request for clearance to deal must be given to the relevant director within five business days of the request being made; and(2) the clearance to deal in accordance with (1) above must be valid for no longer than five business days of clearance being received.
Note: For the avoidance of doubt, the restriction under rule 5.54 applies if inside information develops following the grant of clearance.
The procedure established within the issuer must, as a minimum, provide for there to be a written record maintained by the issuer that the appropriate notification was given and acknowledged pursuant to rule 5.61, and for the director concerned to have received written confirmation to that effect.
Any director of the issuer who acts as trustee of a trust must ensure that his co-trustees are aware of the identity of any company of which he is a director so as to enable them to anticipate possible difficulties. A director having funds under management must likewise advise the investment manager.
Any director who is a beneficiary, but not a trustee, of a trust which deals in securities of the issuer must endeavour to ensure that the trustees notify him after they have dealt in such securities on behalf of the trust, in order that he in turn may notify the issuer. For this purpose, he must ensure that the trustees are aware of the issuers of which he is a director.
The register maintained in accordance with section 352 of the Securities and Futures Ordinance should be made available for inspection at every meeting of the board.
The directors of the issuer must as a board and individually endeavour to ensure that any employee of the issuer or director or employee of a subsidiary company who, because of his office or employment in the company or a subsidiary, is likely to possess inside information in relation to the securities of any issuer on GEM or the Main Board does not deal in those securities when he would be prohibited from dealing by the required standard of dealings if he were a director.
Exceptional circumstances (5.67)
If a director proposes to sell or otherwise dispose of securities of the issuer under exceptional circumstances where the sale or disposal is otherwise prohibited under the required standard of dealings, the director must, in addition to complying with the other provisions of the required standard of dealings, comply with rule 5.61 regarding prior written notice and acknowledgement. The director must satisfy the chairman or the designated director that the circumstances are exceptional and the proposed sale or disposal is the only reasonable course of action available to the director before the director can sell or dispose of the securities. The issuer shall give written notice of such sale or disposal to the Exchange as soon as practicable stating why it considered the circumstances to be exceptional. The issuer shall publish an announcement immediately after any such sale or disposal and state that the chairman or the designated director is satisfied that there were exceptional circumstances for such sale or disposal of securities by the director. An example of the type of circumstances which may be considered exceptional for such purposes would be a pressing financial commitment on the part of the director that cannot otherwise be satisfied.
In relation to securities transactions by directors, an issuer shall disclose in its half-year reports (and summary half-year reports, if any) and the Corporate Governance report contained in its annual reports (and summary financial reports, if any):(1) whether the issuer has adopted a code of conduct regarding securities transactions by directors on terms no less exacting than the required standard of dealings;(2) having made specific enquiry of all directors, whether its directors have complied with, or whether there has been any non-compliance with, the required standard of dealings and its code of conduct regarding securities transactions by directors; and(3) in the event of any non-compliance with the required standard of dealings, details of such non-compliance and an explanation of the remedial steps taken by the issuer to address such non-compliance.