- Board of Directors
- Committees under the Board
- Independent Auditor
- Risk Management and Internal Control
- Requirements Under Section 404 of the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act
- Policy on Payment of Dividend
- Corporate Transparency and Investor Relations
- Shareholders' Rights
- Compliance with U.S. Corporate Governance Practices
- Continuous Evolution of Corporate Governance
- Enquiry on the Company
The Board is committed to high standards of corporate governance and recognises that good governance is vital for the long-term success and sustainability of the Company’s business. As a company incorporated in Hong Kong, the Company adopts the Companies Ordinance (Chapter 622 of the Laws of Hong Kong), the Securities and Futures Ordinance of Hong Kong and other related laws and regulations as the basic guidelines for the Company’s corporate governance. As a company dual-listed in Hong Kong and the United States, the current articles of association are in compliance with the Rules Governing the Listing of Securities on The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited and the regulatory requirements for non-U.S. companies listed in the United States. These rules serve as guidance for the Company to improve the foundation of its corporate governance, and the Company strives to comply with the relevant requirements of international and local corporate governance best practices. The Company has regularly published statements relating to its internal control in accordance with the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the regulatory requirements of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and the New York Stock Exchange to confirm its compliance with related financial reporting, information disclosure, corporate internal control requirements and other regulatory requirements. The Board is responsible for performing overall corporate governance duties. The Company has adopted a Corporate Governance Practice which sets out the key terms of reference of the Board on corporate governance functions, including, amongst others, developing and reviewing the Corporate Governance Policy and corporate governance practices of the Company; reviewing and monitoring the training and continuous professional development of Directors and senior management; reviewing and monitoring the Company’s policies and practices on compliance with legal and regulatory requirements; developing, reviewing and monitoring the code of conduct and compliance manual applicable to employees and Directors; and reviewing the Company’s compliance with the Code.
In 2020, the Company’s continuous efforts in corporate governance gained wide recognition from the capital markets and the Company was accredited with a number of awards. The Company was voted as “Asia’s No.1 Most Honored Telecom Company” for five years in a row in “2020 All-Asia Executive Team” ranking organised by the authoritative financial magazine, Institutional Investor. Meanwhile, the Company was also honored with “Asia’s Best CEO (Telecoms)”, “Asia’s Best CFO (Telecoms)”, “Asia’s Best ESG (Telecom)” and “Asia’s Best IR Team”. The Company was voted by professional investors as “Best Corporate Governance in Asia” and “Best Managed Company in China” in “Asia’s Best Managed Companies Poll 2020” by FinanceAsia. The Company was award “Most Outstanding Company in Asia - Telecommunication Services Sector” and “Overall Most Outstanding Company in Hong Kong” in the “Asia’s Outstanding Companies Poll 2020” organised by Asiamoney. The Company was awarded “Asia’s Best CSR” by Corporate Governance Asia. The Company was voted as “Best Overall Investor Relations (Large Cap)”, “Best in Communications Sector” and “Best in Hong Kong” at “IR Magazine Awards — Greater China 2020”. The Company was accredited with “Gold Award — Excellence in Environmental, Social, and Governance” in “The Asset ESG Corporate Awards 2020”.
The Corporate Governance Code (the “Code”) as set out in Appendix 14 of the Rules Governing the Listing of Securities on The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (the “Listing Rules”) provides for code provisions (the “Code Provisions”) and recommended best practices with respect to (i) Directors, (ii) remuneration of Directors and senior management and evaluation of the Board of Directors (the “Board”), (iii) accountability and audit, (iv) delegation by the Board, (v) communication with shareholders and (vi) company secretary. Other than the disclosures made in the section headed “Board of Directors” below, the Company confirms that for the year ended 31 December 2020, it complied with all the Code Provisions.
Board of Directors
To serve the best interests of the Company and its shareholders, the Board is responsible for reviewing and approving major corporate matters, including, amongst others, business strategies and budgets, major investments, capital market operations, as well as mergers and acquisitions. The Board is also responsible for monitoring risk management and internal control, reviewing environmental, social and governance strategies, reviewing and approving the announcements periodically published by the Company regarding its business results and operating activities.
In order to achieve a sustainable and balanced development, the Company views Board diversity as a key element for supporting its strategic goals and maintaining sustainable development. The Board membership maintains wide representation. Members of the Board consist of outstanding individuals from different professions. Currently, the Board comprises nine Directors, including five executive Directors and four independent non-executive Directors. Particulars of the Directors are set out on pages 24 to 35 of this annual report. The Company believes that the Board currently comprises experts from diversified professions such as telecommunications, technology, banking, finance, investment and management, and is diversified in terms of gender, age, duration of service, educational background, professional experience, etc., which contributes to the enhanced management standard and more regulated operation of corporate governance of the Company, and results in a more comprehensive and balanced Board structure and decision-making process.
The below sets out the analysis of the current composition of the Board:
The roles and responsibilities of the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer of the Company were performed by the same individual for the year ended 31 December 2020. The Company considers that, as all major decisions are made by the Board and relevant Board Committees after discussion, through supervision by the Board and the independent non-executive Directors together with effective internal control mechanism, the Company has achieved a balance of power and authority. In addition, the same individual performing the roles of the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer can enhance the Company’s efficiency in decision-making and execution, effectively capturing business opportunities.
All independent non-executive Directors of the Company possess good knowledge and experience in different areas. They have been making positive contributions to the development of the Company’s strategies and policies through independent, constructive and informed advices. They have maintained close contact with the management and actively express constructive opinions on matters relating to the shareholders and the capital market at board meetings. These views and opinions facilitate the Board in making their decisions in the shareholders’ best interests. All independent non-executive Directors, except for their equity interests and remuneration disclosed in this annual report, do not have any business with or financial interests in the Company, its holding company or subsidiaries, and have confirmed their independence to the Company. The functions of non-executive Directors include, amongst other things, attending board meetings, exercising independent judgements at meetings, playing a leading role in resolving any potential conflicts of interest, serving on committees by invitation and carefully examining whether the performance of the Company has reached the planned corporate targets and objectives, and monitoring and reporting on matters relating to the performance of the Company. With respect to the nomination and appointment of new directors and senior management members, the Nomination Committee would, after considering the Company’s need for new directors and/or senior management members, identify a wide range of candidates from within the Company and the human resources market and make recommendations to the Board. The Nomination Committee will consider candidates on merit against objective criteria and with due regard to the benefits of diversity on the Board. After having obtained the consent from candidates in relation to the relevant nomination and based on the Company’s actual needs, the Board would convene a meeting, attendees of which include non-executive Directors, to consider the qualifications of the candidates. The Directors of the Company (including non-executive Directors) are not appointed for a specific term but are subject to retirement by rotation at general meetings pursuant to the Company’s articles of association and at least once every three years.
Every newly appointed Director is provided with a comprehensive, formal and tailored induction on appointment, including but not limited to the “Guidelines on Directors’ Duties” published by the Hong Kong Companies Registry and the “Guidelines for Directors” published by the Hong Kong Institute of Directors. Directors have fiduciary responsibilities to the company. They must not exercise their powers for improper purposes. They must not use the company’s opportunities to serve their own interests. Their personal interests are not allowed to conflict with the company’s interests, and they must not abuse the company’s assets. The Director would subsequently receive all briefing and professional development necessary to ensure that he/she has proper understanding of the Company’s operations and businesses, full understanding of his/her responsibilities under the statutes, the common law, the Listing Rules, applicable legal and regulatory requirements, and the Company’s business and corporate governance policies. Furthermore, formal letters of appointment setting out the key terms and conditions of the Directors’ appointment will be duly prepared.
Directors’ training is an ongoing process. The Company regularly invites various professionals to provide trainings on the latest changes and development of the legal and regulatory requirements as well as the market and/or industrial environment to Directors. In 2020, the Directors as at 31 December 2020 have participated in various training and continuous professional development activities and the summary of which is as follows:
The remuneration package for executive Directors includes salary and performance-linked annual bonuses. The remuneration of executive Directors is determined by reference to their respective duties and responsibilities in the Company, their respective experience, prevailing market conditions and applicable regulatory requirements while the award of the performance-linked annual bonuses is tied to the attainment of key performance indicators or targets set by the Company. The remuneration of non-executive Directors is determined by reference to prevailing market conditions and their respective responsibilities and workload from serving as non-executive Directors and members of the board committees of the Company. The Company also adopted share option scheme for the purpose of providing long term incentives to eligible participants, including Directors (details of such share option scheme are set out in the paragraph headed “Share Option Scheme of the Company” on pages 64 to 65 of this annual report). The remuneration for each Director and the remuneration of senior management by band are disclosed on pages 135 to 136 of this annual report. In addition to the remuneration, the Company has arranged appropriate insurance coverage in respect of legal action against the Directors.
The Board has provided clear guidelines for delegation of powers and responsibilities to management. However, certain important matters must be decided only by the Board, including, but not limited to, long- term objectives and strategies, annual budget, initial announcements on quarterly, interim and final results, dividends, major investments, equity-related capital market operations, mergers and acquisitions, major connected transactions and annual internal control evaluation. The arrangements on delegation of powers and responsibilities to management are reviewed by the Board periodically to ensure that they remain appropriate to the needs of the Company.
The Board convenes meetings regularly and all Directors have adequate opportunity to be present at the meetings and to include matters for discussion in the meeting agenda. Notices of regular board meetings are delivered to the Directors at least 14 days in advance of the meetings. The Company delivers, on a best endeavor basis, all documents for regular board meetings to the Directors at least one week prior to the meetings (and ensures that all documents are delivered to the Directors no less than three days prior to the regular meetings as required by the Code Provisions).
The Company Secretary, being an employee of the Company, has day-to-day knowledge of the Company’s affairs and reports to the Chairman of the Board. He keeps close contact with all Directors and ensures that the operation of the Board and all board committees is in compliance with the procedures as set forth in the Company’s articles of association and the charters of the board committees. Additionally, the Company Secretary is responsible for compiling and regularly submitting draft minutes of board meetings and committee meetings to the Directors and committee members for their comment, and final versions of minutes for their records, within a reasonable time after the relevant meetings. Each Director may obtain advice from and the services of the Company Secretary to ensure that board procedures, and all applicable rules and regulations, are followed. Physical board meetings will be held for the selection, appointment or dismissal of the Company Secretary. To ensure the possession of up-to-date knowledge and market information to perform his duties, the Company Secretary attended sufficient professional training in 2020.
The Directors may, upon request, obtain independent professional advice at the expense of the Company. In addition, if any substantial shareholder of the Company or any Directors has significant conflicts of interest in a matter to be resolved, the Board will convene a board meeting in respect of such matter and those Directors who have conflicts of interest must abstain from voting and will not be counted in the quorum of the meeting.
All Directors are required to devote sufficient time and attention to the affairs of the Company. A culture of openness and debate are promoted in the Board and the Directors are encouraged to express their views and concerns. The Company provides monthly operating update to the Directors, so as to ensure the Directors are familiar with the Company’s latest operations. In addition, through regular board meetings and reports from management, the Directors are able to clearly understand the operations, business strategy and latest development of the Company and the industry. Besides formal board meetings, the Chairman also meets annually with independent non-executive Directors, without the presence of other Directors, which further promotes the exchange of diversified views and opinions. In order to ensure that all Directors have appropriate knowledge of the matters discussed at the meetings, adequate, accurate, clear, complete and reliable information regarding those matters is provided in advance and in a timely manner, and all Directors have the right to inspect documents and information in relation to matters to be decided by the Board. The Directors have frequently visited various branches in Mainland China to gain better understanding of the Company’s daily operations. In addition, the Company has arranged relevant trainings for the Directors (which include training sessions conducted by professional advisers, such as lawyers and accountants, from time to time) in order to broaden their knowledge in the relevant areas and to improve their understanding of the Company’s business, legal and regulatory requirements and the latest operational technologies. The Board also conducts annual evaluation of its performance. Such efforts have improved the corporate governance of the Company.
In 2020, the Board held four board meetings and passed two written resolutions for, amongst other things, discussion and approval of important matters such as the 2019 annual results, the 2019 Form 20-F, the 2020 annual budget, the 2020 interim results, the first and the first three quarters results for 2020, corporate social responsibility report, reports on risk management and internal control as well as the appointment of executive Director and senior vice president.
Set forth below is an overview of the attendance during the year of 2020 by the Board members at various meetings:
In 2020, the Board performed their fiduciary duties and devoted sufficient time and attention to the affairs of the Company. The Board works effectively and performs its responsibilities efficiently with all key and appropriate issues being discussed and approved in a timely manner.
The Company has adopted the “Model Code for Securities Transactions by Directors of Listed Issuers”, as set out in Appendix 10 to the Listing Rules (the “Model Code”) to govern securities transactions by directors. Further to the specific enquiries made by the Company to the Directors, all Directors have confirmed their compliance with the Model Code for the year ended 31 December 2020.
The Directors acknowledge their responsibilities for preparing the financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2020, which give a true and fair view of the financial position of the Company as at the statement of financial position date and financial performance and cash flows of the Company for the year ended the statement of financial position date, are properly prepared on the going concern basis in accordance with relevant statutory requirements and applicable financial reporting standards. A statement of the independent auditors about their reporting responsibilities related to the financial statements is set out in the independent auditor’s report on pages 88 to 92 of this annual report.
Committees under the Board
The Company has established three committees of the Board under the Board, the Audit Committee, the Remuneration Committee and the Nomination Committee. Each committee has a written charter,which is available on the websites of the Company and The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (the “Hong Kong Stock Exchange”). From time to time as required by the Listing Rules, the Board also establishes independent board committee for the purpose of advising and providing voting recommendations to independent shareholders on connected transactions and transactions subject to independent shareholders’ approval entered into by the Company and/or its subsidiaries. The committees are provided with sufficient resources, including, amongst others, obtaining independent professional advice at the expense of the Company, to perform its duties. The committees report their decisions or recommendations to the Board after meetings.
Currently the Audit Committee comprised Mr. Wong Wai Ming, Mr. Cheung Wing Lam Linus, Mr. Chung Shui Ming Timpson and Mrs. Law Fan Chiu Fun Fanny, all being independent non-executive Directors of the Company. The Chairman of the Audit Committee is Mr. Wong Wai Ming. All members of the Audit Committee have satisfied the “independence” requirements in relation to an Audit Committee member under applicable laws, regulations and rules. The Chairman of the Audit Committee is an accountant with expertise and experience in accounting and financial management. Another member of the Audit Committee is also an accountant with extensive accounting professional experience.
The primary responsibilities of the Audit Committee include: as the key representative body, overseeing the Company’s relationship with the independent auditor, considering and approving the appointment, resignation and removal of the independent auditor; pre-approval of services and fees to be provided by the independent auditor based on the established pre-approval framework; supervising the independent auditor and determining the potential impact of non-audit services on such auditor’s independence; reviewing quarterly and interim financial information as well as annual financial statements; coordinating and discussing with the independent auditor with respect to any issues identified and recommendations made during the audits; reviewing correspondences from the independent auditor to the management and responses of the management; discussing the risk management and internal control system with the management as well as reviewing the reports on the risk management and internal control procedures of the Company. The Audit Committee also has the authority to set up a reporting system to receive and handle cases of complaints or complaints made on an anonymous basis regarding the Company’s accounting, internal control and audit matters. Any complaints on the aforementioned subject matters can be submitted by post (No. 21 Financial Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, 100033, China) or by phone (86-(010) 88091674). The Audit Committee is responsible to and regularly reports its work to the Board.
Work Completed in 2020
The Audit Committee meets at least four times each year, and assists the Board in its review of the financial statements to ensure effective risk management and internal control as well as efficient audit.
The Audit Committee held four meetings in 2020 for, amongst other things, discussion and approval of the 2019 annual results, the 2019 Form 20-F, the 2020 interim results, and the first and the first three quarters results for 2020. In addition, the Audit Committee approved in the meetings the report on risk management, the report on internal audit and internal control, the report on continuing connected transaction, the re-appointment, the audit fees and the audit plans of the independent auditor as well as the non-audit services provided by the independent auditor in 2020.
The Audit Committee has performed its duties effectively, and enabled the Board to better monitor the financial condition of the Company, supervise the risk management and internal control of the Company, ensure the integrity and reliability of the financial statements of the Company, prevent significant errors in the financial statements and ensure the Company’s compliance with the relevant requirements of the Listing Rules, the U.S. federal securities laws and the New York Stock Exchange listing standards with respect to audit committee.
Currently the Remuneration Committee comprised Mr. Cheung Wing Lam Linus, Mr. Wong Wai Ming and Mr. Chung Shui Ming Timpson, all being independent non-executive Directors of the Company. The Chairman of the Remuneration Committee is Mr. Cheung Wing Lam Linus.
The primary responsibilities of the Remuneration Committee include: making recommendations to the Board on the policies and structure for all Directors’ and senior management’s remuneration and on the establishment of a formal and transparent procedure for developing remuneration policy; reviewing and approving the management’s remuneration proposals with reference to the corporate goals and objectives set by the Board; making recommendations to the Board on the remuneration packages of individual executive Directors and senior management (including benefits in kind, pension right and compensation payments, including any compensation payable for loss or termination of their office or appointment); making recommendations to the Board on the remuneration of non-executive Directors; consulting the Chairman about the remuneration proposals for other executive Directors; considering salaries paid by comparable companies, time commitment and responsibilities and employment conditions elsewhere in the Group; considering any concrete plan proposed by the management of the Company for the grant of option which has not been granted, and any plan to amend any existing option scheme of the Company; reviewing and approving compensation payable to executive Directors and senior management for any loss or termination of office or appointment to ensure that it is consistent with contractual terms; reviewing and approving compensation arrangements relating to dismissal or removal of Directors for misconduct to ensure that they are consistent with contractual terms; and ensuring that no Director or any of his/her associates is involved in deciding his/her own remuneration.
Work Completed in 2020
The Remuneration Committee meets at least once a year. The Remuneration Committee held one meeting in 2020 for, amongst other things, discussion and approval of proposal for appraisal and remuneration of senior management.
The Remuneration Committee has performed its duties effectively on reviewing and approving the proposal of appraisal of senior management, as well as making recommendations to the Board with regards to the remuneration packages for senior management.
Currently the Nomination Committee comprised Mr. Chung Shui Ming Timpson, Mr. Wang Xiaochu and Mrs. Law Fan Chiu Fun Fanny. Except for Mr. Wang Xiaochu, who is the Chairman and CEO of the Company, Mr. Chung Shui Ming Timpson and Mrs. Law Fan Chiu Fun Fanny are independent non- executive Directors of the Company. The Chairman of the Nomination Committee is Mr. Chung Shui Ming Timpson.
The primary responsibilities of the Nomination Committee include: reviewing the structure, size and composition (including the skills, knowledge and experience) of the Board at least annually and making recommendations on any proposed changes to the Board to complement the corporate strategy of the Company; identifying individuals suitably qualified to become Board members and making recommendations to the Board; formulating, reviewing and implementing the board diversity policy; assessing the independence of independent non-executive Directors; making recommendations to the Board on the appointment or re-appointment of Directors and succession planning for Directors; providing advice to the Board on candidates of the senior management nominated by the CEO and on changes to the senior management of the Company.
Work Completed in 2020
The Nomination Committee meets at least once a year. The Nomination Committee held one meeting and passed two written resolutions in 2020 for, amongst other things, reviewing the structure, size and composition of the Board, assessment of the independence of independent non-executive Directors, making recommendations to the Board on the proposed re-election of Directors, the appointment of executive Director and senior vice president.
The Company has adopted nomination policy. With respect to the nomination and appointment of new directors and senior management members, the Nomination Committee would, after considering the Company’s need for new directors and/or senior management members, identify a wide range of candidates from within the Company and the human resources market and make recommendations to the Board. The Nomination Committee will consider candidates on merit against objective criteria and with due regard to the benefits of diversity on the Board. After having obtained the consent from candidates in relation to the relevant nomination and based on the Company’s actual needs, the Board would convene a meeting, attendees of which include non-executive Directors, to consider the qualifications of the candidates. The Directors of the Company (including non-executive Directors) are not appointed for a specific term but are subject to retirement by rotation at general meetings pursuant to the Company’s articles of association and at least once every three years.
The Company has also adopted a policy concerning diversity of board members. The Company recognises and embraces the benefits of having a diverse Board, and notes increasing diversity at Board level as an essential element in maintaining a competitive advantage. All Board appointments are made on merit, in the context of the skills and experience the Board as a whole requires to be effective. In reviewing Board composition, the Nomination Committee will consider their professional knowledge, skills, experience and the balance of diversity of perspectives which are appropriate to the Company’s business model and specific needs. In identifying suitable candidates for appointment to the Board, the Nomination Committee will with due regard to the benefits of diversity on the Board and base on a range of diversity perspectives including but not limited to gender, age, cultural and educational background, professional experience, skills, knowledge and duration of service. The ultimate decision will be based on merit and contribution that the selected candidates will bring to the Board.
In addition, pursuant to the Company’s articles of association, shareholder may propose other person for election as a director at general meeting. The proposal will be considered and approved in the general meeting. With regard to the procedure for shareholder to propose a person for election as a director, please visit the Company’s website at https://www. chinaunicom.com.hk/en/about/cg_report.php.
KPMG is the independent auditor of the Company. Apart from audit services, it also provides other assurance and non-audit services. The other assurance and non-audit services provided by the independent auditors did not contravene the requirements of the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act and therefore enabling them to maintain the independence. The remuneration paid/payable to the independent auditor for provision of services in 2020 is as follows:
Risk Management and Internal Control
The Board is responsible for evaluating and determining the nature and extent of the risks it is willing to take in achieving the Company’s strategic objectives, and ensuring that the Company establishes and maintains appropriate and effective risk management and internal control systems, promotes the sustainable and healthy development of the Company, and enhances the Company’s operation management level and risk prevention ability. The Board should oversee management in the design, implementation and monitoring of the risk management and internal control systems, and management should provide a confirmation to the Board on the effectiveness of these systems. The Board acknowledges that it is its responsibility for the risk management and internal control systems and reviewing their effectiveness.
Risk management and internal control systems have been designed to monitor and facilitate the accomplishment of the Company’s business objectives, safeguard the Company’s assets against loss and misappropriation, ensure maintenance of proper accounting records for the provision of reliable financial information, ensure the Company’s compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations. Such systems are designed to manage rather than eliminate the risk of failure to achieve business objectives, and can only provide reasonable and not absolute assurance against material misstatement or loss.
The Company set up a group-wide risk management and internal control systems consisting of the Board, the Internal Control and Risk Management Committee, the Integrated Management Department and each relevant professional functional departments.
The Company has an internal audit department with 612 staff members, with officers stationed at various provincial branches. The internal audit department reports directly to the Audit Committee at least twice annually and is independent of the Company’s daily operation and accounting functions. The internal audit department responsible for overall risk evaluation, special risk evaluation and internal control self-testing etc. It has also formulated targeted risk prevention and control measures, conducted risk follow-up inspections and has enhanced the risk awareness of the employees, all of which have played an active role in the Company’s effective support and safeguard of its operation management and business development. Furthermore, with an emphasis on the effectiveness of internal control with respect to the efficiency of operations, accuracy of financial information, and compliance with rules and regulations, the internal audit department conducts, amongst others, internal control assessment and internal audit on economic accountability. In addition, the internal audit department also contributes to strengthening the operation and management, improving internal control systems, mitigating operational risks and increasing the economic efficiency of the Company.
Using the risk evaluation as fundamental with the adoption of Internal Control Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organisations of the Treadway Commission (the “COSO”), the Company established internal control systems based on the following five fundamental components:
Control Environment: Establishes the control environment which fulfill COSO requirements to provide the appropriate operating environment for the effective implementation of internal control
Risk Evaluation: Establishes the Policy on Risk Evaluation Management and evaluation mechanism, evaluates the risks to the achievement of its objectives across the Company and identifies to the new risk due to the changes
Control Activities: Deploys appropriate policies and control procedures over the Company’s business activities, identifies key control procedures and policies of significant control activities through evaluation
Information and Communication: Identifies relevant information and communication methods, establishes information and communication mechanisms to aggregate and delivers relevant information
Monitoring Activities: Establishes the internal control monitoring mechanism, implements the monitoring procedures and adopted the before, during and extensive monitoring principles, and carries on the proper monitoring to the internal control
Risk evaluation and management
The Company has established and gradually improved its comprehensive closed-loop risk management system for the purpose of “integrating management of day-to-day general risks and spontaneous critical risks”, achieved the closed-loop management by risk evaluation, early warning and follow-up inspections to ensure the effectiveness of operation management. The Company evaluated the adequacy and appropriateness on risk and control measures according to the new business model, management requirement, change of system, adjustment of duties and findings from internal and external inspections.
2020 Risk evaluation result
The followings were the major significant risks which the Company might encounter and its countermeasures in 2020:
Continuous market competition Risk
From the perspective of the current industry environment, the traditional communication business market is becoming increasingly saturated, and the domestic telecommunications industry has serious homogeneity in networks, products and services, and lack of differentiation. Market competition in the industry will continue in the long run. The Company will deeply carry out the strategy of Focus, Innovation and Cooperation, promote in-depth the high-quality development and thoroughly implement the new development concept based on its own endowment, so as to achieve differentiated breakthroughs in advantageous areas. At the same time, the Company will insist on competition and cooperation, maintain orderly and healthy competition, continue to promote industry collaboration and value enhancement, to gradually form a win-win ecosystem and support the healthy and sustainable development of the industry.
Risk from the changes of regulatory policies in the industry
The Chinese government will continue to promote the policies such as the opening of telecommunications industry to foreign and private capital, “Speed Upgrade and Tariff Reduction” and adjustments to interconnection settlement in domestic telecommunication services. These regulatory policies will bring new development opportunities to the Company while also bringing challenges. The Company will pay close attention to changes in regulatory policies and respond to the relevant impacts of regulatory policy adjustments in a timely manner.
Technology upgrade risk
Currently, global telecom operators are accelerating the network upgrades and advancing the application of 5G technology, and the new information and communication technologies are accelerating upgrades and iterations. Based on its extensive experience in mobile network construction and operation, the Company has actively participated in the work of world’s mainstream international standardisation organisations and conducted in-depth research and testing on new technologies and new businesses, so as to continuously improve its technological innovation capabilities and reasonably plan and construct networks. The Company has also insisted on promoting the co-build and co-share of 5G network, continued to build a technologically leading 5G premium network with “wide coverage, fast speed, and good experience”, and increased the application new technologies and promotion of new services, so as to maintain its competitive strength.
Interest rates and exchange rates risk
The Company holds assets and liabilities denominated in foreign currencies. Changes in the RMB exchange rate may have a certain impact on the Company’s profits, and the rise in interest rates may increase the Company’s interest payments on interest-bearing debts. The Company will continue to monitor the changes in the exchange rate and interest rate markets, and reduce the exchange rate and interest rate risks by reasonable adjustments to the debt structure and strengthening fund management.
Foreign oversea risk
The New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) staff determined that, based on the Executive Order 13959 and the guidance, it commenced the process to delist the Company’s American Depositary Shares (the “ADSs”) and suspended trading in the Company’s ADSs from 11 January 2021., On 20 January 2021, the Company filed with the NYSE a written request for a review of the determination by a Committee of the Board of Directors of the NYSE. The Company will continue to pay close attention to the development of related matters and also seek professional advice and reserve all rights to protect lawful rights of the Company.
The scope of the 2020 overall risk evaluation covered the whole Group, which included headquarter, 31 provincial companies and its cities-level branch offices and subsidiaries. Through both the quantitative and qualitative analysis, the Company fully considered the changes in operating environment, business and policies, identified the potential risk to the Company’s operation, and planned for the risk according to the quantitative result. After reporting to each professional departments and the management, the significant risks and the risk level of the year were finally determined. The annual risk management instructions from the management were implemented according to the Policy on Risk Management and the Company’s risk management requirement. This included the formulation of relevant risk management strategies, solution and corresponding departments carried out interim follow-up inspection works. The negative impacts arising from the risks and risk events were controlled as planned and were within an acceptable range. There were no significant control failings or weaknesses that have been identified during the year.
Monitoring and Optimisation
To ensure the effectiveness of risk management and internal control designs, the Company carried out risk evaluation timely and compared the risk points, formulated or enhanced corresponding internal control measures according to the change in business and management. At the same time, the internal control manual will be updated timely through the assessment and review on applications on internal control workflow modification submitted by professional departments, risk evaluation reports and exceptional issues from internal control assessment etc., so as to provide the effective support for the development of the sustainable growth of the Company. Internal Control and Risk Management Office conducted inspections on effectiveness on risk management and internal control implementation in regular or irregular time interval, improved and enhanced risk management and internal control designs continuously.
Our Internal Audit Department has continued to organise our branches and subsidiaries to conduct annual internal control self-assessment based on the actual conditions of each unit and improve the quality of such self-assessment tasks, so as to gradually develop a quantitative internal assessment regime governed by uniform standards. Through the effective rectification of issues identified during the audit, assessment of the internal control system and its implementation, improvements made to the system and process optimisation, a long-term mechanism for closed-loop management in internal control has been put in place. According to the internal control self-assessment reports from the branches and subsidiaries, self-assessment reports from each professional department, current year exceptional issues in internal control discovered during internal audit and the Company annual risk management report, the Group’s Internal Control and Risk Management Office at its headquarter formed the Company’s internal control self-assessment report, which acted as supporting document for the management to issue a statement of the effectiveness of internal control. Based on different disclosure requirements on Company’s internal control assessment report from different listing regulatory body, the Company prepared internal control assessment report respectively. External auditor issued and disclosed independence opinions on financial statement as at 31 December on that year and effectiveness on internal control over financial reporting.
As a telecommunications operator, the Company is subject to the regulations, eg, the Cybersecurity Law of the People’s Republic of China, designed to protect critical information infrastructure. Personal privacy, information security, and data protection are increasingly significant issues in China and other jurisdictions in which the Company operate. For example, Cybersecurity Law of the People’s Republic of China which sets forth the general framework regulating network products, equipment and services, as well as the operation and maintenance of information networks, the protection of personal data, and the supervision and administration of cybersecurity in China. Information Security Technology - Personal Information Security Specification published in 2018 set forth detailed guidelines on the collection, utilisation and retention of personal information and privacy protection, and Identification Methods for Illegal Collection and Use of Personal Information by Apps published in 2019, stipulating standards for determining illegal acts of collecting and using personal information through mobile applications. The Cyber Security Review Measures published in 2020 require that the procurement of network products and services that affect or may affect national security should conduct a network security review. The Company also devotes significant resources to network security, data security and other security measures to protect its systems and data and in response to the evolving cybersecurity laws and regulations. The Company also employs risk management and internal control systems. including, among other things, (i)continuously strengthening data security capabilities, such as improving data encryption, protection of critical information infrastructure and security of supply chain of the information technology products and services;(ii)establishing data protection compliance policies and guidelines, including training on crisis management and compliance of cybersecurity laws and regulations; (iii)self-examining potential risks and weakness of data system and updating private policy; (iv)enhancing the real-time monitoring and alarm reporting system and implementing an emergency action plan to allow the Company to act responsively and minimise losses in the event of an emergency; and (v)continuously improving compliance efforts through enhanced sharing of relevant knowledge internally and externally. The Company is required to perform a security assessment when transferring personal information and important data overseas if such personal information and important data are collected from the operation in China.
The Board oversees the Company’s risk management and internal control systems on an ongoing basis and the Board conducted an annual review of the risk management and internal control systems of the Company and its subsidiaries for the financial year ended 31 December 2020, which covered all material controls including financial, operational and compliance controls. After receiving the reports from the Internal Audit Department, as well as the confirmation from the management to the Board on the effectiveness of these systems, the Board is of the view that the Company’s risk management and internal control systems is effective and adequate. The review also ensure, with respect to the Company’s accounting, internal audit and financial reporting function, the adequacy of resources, staff qualifications and experience, and training programs and budget.
Requirements under Section 404 of the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act
Compliance with the requirements under Section 404 of the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (the “Sarbanes-Oxley Act”) has been an area of emphasis for the Company. The relevant sections of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act require the management of non-U.S. issuers with equity securities listed on U.S. stock exchanges to issue reports and make representations as to internal control over financial reporting.
The relevant internal control report needs to stress the management’s responsibility for establishing and maintaining adequate and effective internal control over financial reporting. Management is required to assess the effectiveness of the Company’s internal control over financial reporting as at year end. Under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Company’s management is required to conduct an assessment of the effectiveness of the Company’s internal control over financial reporting as at 31 December 2020. Management is currently in the process of finalising the management’s report on internal control over financial reporting, which will be included in the Company’s annual report on Form 20-F for the year ended 31 December 2020 to be filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission by 30 April 2021.
Information Disclosure Controls and Procedural Standards
In order to further enhance the Company’s system of information disclosure, and to ensure the truthfulness, accuracy, completeness and timeliness of its public disclosures (including inside information), the Company has adopted and implemented the Information Disclosure Control Policy. In an effort to standardise the principles for information disclosures, the Company established the Information Disclosure Review Committee under the management and formulated the procedures in connection with the compilation and reporting of the Company’s financial and operational statistics and other information, as well as the procedures in connection with the preparation and review of the periodic reports. Moreover, the Company established detailed implementation rules with respect to the contents and requirements of financial data verification, in particular, the upward undertakings by the individual responsible officers at the major departments.
Policy on Payment of Dividend
The objective of the dividend policy is to achieve a long-term, sustainable and steadily increasing dividend, with a view to maximising the shareholders’ value. The declaration and payment of future dividends will depend upon, among other things, financial condition, business prospects, future earnings, cash flow, liquidity level and cost of capital. The Company believes such policy will provide the shareholders with a stable return in the long term along with the growth of the Company. Pursuant to the Companies Ordinance (Chapter 622 of the Laws of Hong Kong) and the Company’s articles of association, the Company may only pay dividends out of profits available for distribution.
Taking into consideration the Company’s profitability, debt and cash flow level, capital requirements for its future development etc., the Board recommended the payment of a final dividend of RMB0.164 per share for the year ended 31 December 2020. Going forward, the Company will continue to strive for enhancing its profitability and shareholders’ return.
Corporate Transparency and Investor Relations
In addition to publishing annual reports and interim reports, the Company discloses major unaudited financial information (including revenue, operating expenses, EBITDA, net profit) and other key performance indicators on a quarterly basis and announces operational statistics on a monthly basis in order to enhance the Company’s transparency and improve investors’ understanding of the business operations of the Company. In addition, the Company submits annual reports and regular reports to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to the requirements under the U.S. federal securities laws.
Upon the announcement of interim and annual results or major transactions, the Company will generally hold analyst briefings, press conferences, and global conference calls with investors. During such conferences, the management of the Company would interact directly with analysts, fund managers, investors and journalists to provide them with relevant information and data of the Company. The Company’s management would accurately and thoroughly respond to questions raised by analysts, fund managers, investors and journalists. Archived webcast of the investor presentation is also available on the Company’s website to ensure wide dissemination of information and data.
The Company’s investor relations department is responsible for providing information and services requested by investors, maintaining timely communications with investors and fund managers, including responding to investors’ inquiries and meeting with company-visit investors, as well as gathering market information and passing views from shareholders to the Directors and management to ensure such views are properly communicated. The Company also arranges from time to time road shows and actively attends investor conferences arranged by investment banks, through which the Company’s management meets and communicates with investors to provide them with opportunities to understand more accurately the Company’s latest development and performance in various aspects, including business operations and management.
In 2020, the Company participated in the following investor conferences:
In addition, through announcements, press releases and the Company website (www.chinaunicom.com.hk), the Company disseminates the latest information regarding any significant business development in a timely and accurate manner. In the perspective of investor relations, the Company’s website not only serves as an important channel for the Company to disseminate press releases and corporate information to investors and the capital market, but also plays a significant role in the Company’s valuation and our compliance with regulatory requirements for information disclosure. In 2020, the Company updated the content of its website on an ongoing basis to further enhance the functions of website and level of transparency in information disclosure, striving for achieving international best practices. Our website was honored with the Grand Awards by various international institutions, including “iNova Awards” and “Astrid Awards” this year.
Furthermore, the Company has adopted a Shareholders’ Communication Policy to ensure that the shareholders of the Company are provided with readily, equal and timely access to balanced and understandable information about the Company, to enable shareholders to exercise their rights in an informed manner, and to enhance the shareholders’ and the investment community’s communication with the Company.
The Company’s effort in investor relations is well recognised by the capital market, and accredited with a number of awards. The Company was voted as “Best Overall Investor Relations (Large Cap)”, “Best in Communications Sector” and “Best in Hong Kong” at “IR Magazine Awards — Greater China 2020”. It was also voted as “Asia’s Best IR Team (Telecoms)” in “2020 All-Asia Executive Team” ranking organised by Institutional Investor.
CHINA UNICOM’S ANNUAL REPORTS ATTAINED INTERNATIONAL TOP ACCOLADES FOR YEARS
Annual General Meeting
The Board endeavors to maintain an on-going dialogue with shareholders, and in particular, to communicate with shareholders through annual general meetings. Notices of annual general meeting are sent to shareholders at least 20 clear business days before the meeting. The Directors and representatives of the Board committees usually attend the meetings and treasure the opportunities to communicate with shareholders at such meetings. At general meetings, the chairman of the meeting proposes individual resolutions in respect of each substantially separate matter. All matters at the Company’s general meetings are resolved by poll and the relevant procedures are explained at the meeting. The Company also appoints external scrutineers to ensure that all votes are counted and recorded appropriately, and publishes the poll results in a timely manner.
The last annual general meeting of the Company was held on 25 May 2020, at which the following resolutions were passed and percentage of votes cast in favor of the resolutions are set out as follows:
- to receive and consider the financial statements and the Reports of the Directors and of the Independent Auditor for the year ended 31 December 2019 (over 99%)
- to declare a final dividend for the year ended 31 December 2019 (over 99%)
- to re-elect Mr. Li Fushen, Mr. Fan Yunjun and Mrs. Law Fan Chiu Fun Fanny as Directors, and to authorise the Board to fix remuneration of the Directors (over 99%)
- to re-appoint auditor and authorise the Board to fix their remuneration for the year ending 31 December 2020 (over 99%)
- to grant a general mandate for share buy-back (over 99%)
- to grant a general mandate to issue new shares (over 89%)
- to extend the general mandate to issue new shares (over 89%)
The next annual general meeting will be held on 13 May 2021. Please refer to the circular, which sets out the details, that has been sent together with this Annual Report.
Putting Forward Resolutions at Annual General Meetings
Pursuant to Section 615 of the Companies Ordinance (Chapter 622 of the Laws of Hong Kong), the following persons may put forward a resolution at the next annual general meeting of the Company: (a) any number of shareholders, together holding not less than 2.5% of the total voting rights of all shareholders which have, as at the date of the requisition, a right to vote at the next annual general meeting, or (b) not less than 50 shareholders who have a right to vote on the resolution at the annual general meeting to which the requests relate.
The resolution must be one which may be properly moved and is intended to be moved at the next annual general meeting. The requisition must be signed by the requisitionists and deposited at the registered office of the Company at least six weeks or if later, the time at which notice is given of the annual general meeting before the annual general meeting, the Company has a duty to give notice of such proposed resolution to all shareholders who are entitled to receive notice of the next annual general meeting.
In addition, requisitionists may require the Company to circulate to shareholders entitled to receive notice of the annual general meeting a statement of not more than 1,000 words with respect to the resolution to be proposed. However, the Company is not required to circulate any statement if the court is satisfied that this right is being abused to secure needless publicity for defamatory matters. In such event, the requisitionists may be ordered to pay for the Company’s expenses for application to the court.
If the requisition signed by the requisitionists does not require the Company to give shareholders notice of a resolution, such requisition may be deposited at the registered office of the Company not less than one week before the next annual general meeting.
Convening Extraordinary General Meetings
Pursuant to Section 566 of the Companies Ordinance, shareholder(s) holding not less than 5% of the total voting rights of all shareholders having a right to vote at general meetings of the Company as at the date of deposit of the requisition, may request the Directors of the Company to convene an extraordinary general meeting. The requisition must state the objects of the meeting and must be signed by the requisitionists and deposited at the registered office of the Company.
If the Directors do not, within 21 days from the date of deposit of the requisition, proceed duly to convene a meeting to be held not more than 28 days after the notice of the meeting, shareholder(s) requisitioning the meeting, or any of them representing more than half of their total voting rights, may themselves convene a meeting to be held within three months of such date.
Meetings convened by the requisitionists must be convened in the same manner, as nearly as possible, as meetings to be convened by Directors of the Company. Any reasonable expenses incurred by the requisitionists will be reimbursed by the Company due to the failure of the Directors duly to convene a meeting.
Putting Forward Resolutions at Extraordinary General Meetings
Shareholders may not put forward resolutions to be considered at any general meetings other than annual general meetings. However, shareholders may request an extraordinary general meeting to consider any such resolution as described in “Convening Extraordinary General Meetings” above.
Any queries relating to shareholders’ rights on putting forward resolutions at general meetings and convening extraordinary general meetings should be directed to the Company Secretary of the Company. Requisitions should be deposited at the Company’s registered office and marked for the attention of the Company Secretary.
Procedures Shareholders Can Use to Propose a Person for Election as a Director
If a Shareholder* intends to propose a person for election as a Director at any annual general meeting, the following procedures must be followed:
A notice signed by the Shareholder* to give his intention to propose a person for election as a Director and a notice signed by the person to be proposed of his consent to be elected must both be lodged at the office of the Company located at 75th Floor, The Center, 99 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong at least seven (7) days before the date of the annual general meeting.
If a Shareholder* intends to propose a person for election as a Director at any extraordinary general meeting, the following procedures must be followed:
A notice signed by the Shareholder* of his intention to propose a person for election as a Director and a notice signed by the person to be proposed of his willingness to be elected must both be lodged at the office of the Company located at 75th Floor, The Center, 99 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong during a period of not less than seven (7) days, commencing no earlier than the day after the despatch of the notice of the meeting appointed for such election and ending no later than seven (7) days before the date appointed for the meeting.
A Shareholder* shall not propose himself for election as a Director.
* A Shareholder is any shareholder who is duly qualified to attend and vote at the meeting.
Compliance with U.S. Corporate Governance Practices
Summary of Significant Differences Between the Corporate Governance Practices of the Company and the Corporate Governance Practices Required to Be Followed by U.S. Companies under the Listing Standards of the New York Stock Exchange (the "NYSE")
As a company listed on both the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange, the Company is subject to applicable Hong Kong laws and regulations, including the Listing Rules and the Companies Ordinance, as well as applicable U.S. federal securities laws, including the U.S. Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. In addition, the Company is subject to the listing standards of the New York Stock Exchange to the extent applicable to non-U.S. issuers. As a non-U.S. issuer, the Company is not required to comply with all of the corporate governance listing standards of the New York Stock Exchange.
In accordance with the requirements of Section 303A.11 of the New York Stock Exchange Listed Company Manual, the following is a summary of the significant differences between corporate governance practices of the Company and those required to be followed by U.S. companies under the listing standards of the NYSE.
Section 303A.01 of the NYSE Listed Company Manual provides that listed companies must have a majority of independent directors on its board of directors. As a listed company in Hong Kong, the Company is subject to the requirement under the Hong Kong Listing Rules that at least three members of its board of directors, who constitute at least one-third of the board of directors, be independent as determined under the Hong Kong Listing Rules. The standards for establishing independence under the Hong Kong Listing Rules differ from those set forth in the NYSE Listed Company Manual. The Company currently has 4 independent directors out of a total of 9 directors.
Section 303A.03 of the NYSE Listed Company Manual provides that listed companies must schedule regular executive sessions in which non-management directors meet without management participation. Under the applicable Hong Kong rules, the board of directors of the Company is required to meet regularly and at least four times a year, involving active participation by a majority of the directors and affording all directors an opportunity to include matters on the agenda. Furthermore, it has been the Company's practice to organize exclusive meetings for its independent non-executive directors at least annually.
Section 303A.04 of the NYSE Listed Company Manual provides that (i) a listed company must have a nominating/corporate governance committee that consists entirely of independent directors and (ii) the nominating/corporate governance committee of a listed company must have a written charter that addresses the committee's purpose and responsibilities, which shall include, among others, the development and recommendation of corporate governance guidelines to the board of directors and an annual performance evaluation of the committee. The Hong Kong Listing Rules also contain a code provision that the listed companies should establish a nomination committee which consists of a majority of independent non-executive directors. The Company established a nomination committee in August 2011 with a written charter that specifies its duties and authorities. In addition, the board of directors of the Company is directly in charge of developing the corporate governance guidelines of the Company.
Section 303A.05 of the NYSE Listed Company Manual provides that (i) a listed company must have a compensation committee that consists entirely of independent directors and (ii) the compensation committee of a listed company must have a written charter that addresses the committee's purpose and responsibilities and an annual performance evaluation of the compensation committee. The Hong Kong Listing Rules also require that the listed companies should establish a remuneration committee which consists of a majority of independent non-executive directors. The Company has established a remuneration committee with a written charter that specifies its duties and authorities.
Section 303A.07 of the NYSE Listed Company Manual also provides that if an audit committee member simultaneously serves on the audit committee of more than three public companies, and the listed company does not limit the number of audit committees on which its audit committee members serve to three or less, then, the board of directors of the listed company must (i) determine that such simultaneous service would not impair the ability of such member to effectively serve on the audit committee of the listed company and (ii) disclose such determination. The Company is not required, under applicable Hong Kong laws, to make such determination.
Section 303A.10 of the NYSE Listed Company Manual provides that listed companies must adopt and disclose a code of business conduct and ethics for directors, officers and employees. While the Company is not required to adopt any similar code under the Hong Kong Listing Rules, the Company, as required under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, has adopted a code of ethics that is applicable to the Company's chief executive officer, president, vice presidents, chief financial officer, principal accounting officer and general managers and deputy general managers of each department, provincial branch and local branch of the Company or persons performing similar functions. The Company has also adopted a code of ethics that is applicable to all employees of the Company.
Section 303A.12(a) of the NYSE Listed Company Manual provides that each listed company's chief executive officer must certify to the New York Stock Exchange each year that he or she is not aware of any violation by the company of New York Stock Exchange corporate governance listing standards. Our Chief Executive Officer is not required, under the applicable Hong Kong law, to make similar certifications.
Continuous Evolution of Corporate Governance
The Company continuously analyses the corporate governance d evelopment of international advanced enterprises and the investors’ desires, review and enhance corporate governance procedures and practices from time to time so as to meet our shareholders’ expectations, commits to high standards of corporate governance and recognises that good governance is vital for the long-term success and sustainability of the Company’s business.
Enquiry on the Company
Shareholders may raise any enquiry on the Company at any time through the following channels:
China Unicom (Hong Kong) Limited
Address: 75th Floor, The Center, 99 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2126 2018
Fax: (852) 2126 2016
These contact details are also available in the "Contact Us" section on the Company's website (www.chinaunicom.com.hk) designated to enable shareholders to send enquiries to the Company on a timely and effective manner.
11 March 2021