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Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Unveiling China's best investment bets

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Hai Lu

China is rich in investment opportunities, but investors commonly struggle to find reliable information to help them choose which companies are the best bets for their money.

A collaboration between the Rotman School and Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management aims to change that. Its ground breaking ranking of the quality of information available for all of China’s publicly-traded companies — more than 3,000 — shines a light on businesses exhibiting high levels of corporate transparency and integrity.

The Information Transparency Index is the main mission of the newly-created Guanghua-Rotman Centre for Information and Capital Market Research. The index, updated annually, was developed with the support of Chinese financial magazine and ranking agency, New Fortune, which is publishing a list of the 50 top-ranked companies. This year’s index has been included in a larger white paper examining the current state of information transparency in China’s capital market. The white paper was presented at the China Capital Market Development Forum and the Inaugural Best Chinese Listed Company Awards ceremony held at Peking University.

The index responds to interest inside and outside of China in improving the quality of information available about Chinese companies, says Hai Lu, a professor of accounting at the Rotman School, who initiated the index and who is currently directing the Guanghua-Rotman Centre.

“Everyone I talk to thinks this is a highly-demanded initiative,” says Lu. “The goal is to try to provide a reliable assessment of information quality of public companies so that we can help domestic and overseas investors understand what is going on in China.”

Lu also believes that highlighting companies leading the way in transparency will encourage the rest of the market to follow suit. The index shows that transparency goes hand-in-hand with performance. Companies in this year’s top 10 percent are typically large, with high returns on investment and better market performance than less-transparent companies.

Companies were evaluated based on objective measures such as their quality of accounting earnings and any regulatory actions taken against them, as well as on subjective survey information drawn from institutional investors, analysts and corporate board secretaries.  SAIC Motor Corporation Limited was the highest ranked company in the index.

Surveys and interviews with executives from the index’s top 10 per cent of companies, contained in the accompanying white paper, reveal that companies find themselves under investor pressure to report good performance when share prices fluctuate. Respondents said that China’s relatively low penalties for manipulating financial reports are a key driver of dishonest behaviour. Improving corporate integrity and transparency will therefore require joint action by regulatory authorities, companies and investors, respondents said. They also noted that leadership style and corporate culture are integral to promoting integrity.

The complete index is online here →

Hai LuHai Lu is a professor of accounting and director of the Guanghua-Rotman Centre for Information and Capital Market Research at the Rotman School.