Monday, March 3, 2008
The SEC proposed changes to its rules relating to foreign private issuers that are intended to improve the accessibility of the U.S. public capital markets to these issuers, as well as to enhance the information that is available to investors. These amendments are part of a series of initiatives that seek to address changes in the disclosure and other requirements applicable to foreign private issuers in light of market developments, new technologies and other matters in a manner that promotes investor protection, cross-border capital flows and the elimination of unnecessary barriers to our capital markets.
The proposed amendments would: (1) Permit foreign issuers to test their qualification to use the forms and rules available to foreign private issuers on an annual basis, rather than on the continuous basis that is currently required; (2) Accelerate the filing deadline for annual reports filed on Form 20-F by foreign private issuers under the Exchange Act by shortening the filing deadline from 6 months to within 90 days after the foreign private issuer’s fiscal year-end in the case of large accelerated and accelerated filers, and to within 120 days after a foreign private issuer’s fiscal year-end for all other issuers, after a two-year transition period; (3) Eliminate an instruction to Item 17 of Form 20-F that permits certain foreign private issuers to omit segment data from their U.S. GAAP financial statements; and (4) Amend Rule 13e-3 under the Securities Exchange Act by adding cross-references to the new termination of reporting and deregistration rules for foreign private issuers.
In addition, the SEC is soliciting comments on proposals to: (5) Require foreign private issuers that are required to provide a U.S. GAAP reconciliation to do so pursuant to Item 18 of Form 20-F; (6) Amend Form 20-F to require foreign private issuers to disclose information about changes in the issuer’s certifying accountant, the fees and charges paid by holders of American Depositary Receipts, the payments made by the depositary to the foreign issuer whose securities underlie the American Depositary Receipts, and, for listed issuers, the differences in the foreign private issuer’s corporate governance practices and those applicable to domestic companies under the relevant exchange’s listing rules; and (7) Require foreign private issuers to provide certain financial information in annual reports on Form 20-F about a significant, completed acquisition that is significant at the 50% or greater level.