US regulators have selected e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and other US-listed Chinese companies for audit inspections starting next month, three sources familiar with the matter said.
The move follows Friday’s landmark audit deal between Beijing and Washington allowing US regulators to vet accounting firms in mainland China and Hong Kong, potentially ending a long-running dispute that threatened to boot more than 200 Chinese companies from US stock exchanges.
Alibaba has been notified that it is among the first batch of Chinese companies whose audits will be inspected by the US audit watchdog – Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) – in Hong Kong, the sources told Reuters.
PwC, the accounting firm of China’s biggest e-commerce company, has also been informed of the audit work inspection, said the sources, declining to be identified due to confidentiality constraints.
Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment while a PwC spokesperson said it was company policy not to comment on any client matters.
A PCAOB spokesperson said the board did not comment on inspections. The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) could not be immediately reached for comment outside of business hours.
US regulators have for more than a decade demanded access to audit papers of US-listed Chinese companies, but Beijing has been reluctant to let US regulators inspect its accounting firms, citing national security concerns.
Alibaba, which went public in New York in 2014 in what was at the time the largest listing in history, is the most valuable Chinese firm listed in the United States with a market value of $256 billion as of Monday.
The PCAOB said on Friday that the watchdog had notified the selected companies, without naming them, and its officials are expected to land in Hong Kong, where the inspections will take place, by mid-September.
The regulator, which oversees audits of US-listed companies, would select companies based on risk factors, such as size and sector, and that no companies could expect special treatment, according to the PCAOB.
Reuters could not immediately determine how many and which other Chinese companies were in the first batch of US inspections.