Mainland Chinese audit firms could
soon compete for Hong Kong-listed clients in a move that could have
a dramatic impact on both professions.

Authorities are planning to issue licenses to
a handful of firms that would allow Mainland Chinese CPAs to sign
off on Hong Kong accounts. This would mean the end of a dual system
that has placed barriers to prevent Mainland firms accessing the
important Hong Kong market.

Experts speaking to the International
Accounting Bulletin
for this year’s China survey said the
Ministry of Finance is very keen on pushing through the reform,
which will need the agreement and co-operation of Hong Kong

Grant Thornton China Management Corporation
chief executive Stephen Chipman said the added competition will
probably have a greater impact in Hong Kong than in China.

“For Mainland firms, qualifying for that
H-share audit license will be critical because a lot of Mainland
companies will seek to have Mainland firms do their work,” he

Integration beckons

Accounting networks, such as Grant
Thornton, are planning to integrate their Hong Kong firms into
Greater China practices, which could help them become more
competitive in a new market.

“When we look down the road, we see Hong Kong
as a major office of our national Chinese member firm, and that’s
how our Hong Kong people see it too,” Chipman said. “The
regulations and market restrictions don’t make that easy to achieve
today. But as the market becomes one it’s going to accelerate that

RSM China partner Mark Wilson said a hurdle
could be getting the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public
Accountants to recognise the Chinese CPA qualification although a
deal is likely to be struck.

Mazars said it has plans to further integrate
its Mainland China and Hong Kong practices by harmonising technical
tools, intensifying staff exchanges and increasing joint