A number of companies listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen have been reducing their holdings since the beginning of May, according to disclosures to the bourses concerned.
Market observers said this paring of holdings may dent small investors' confidence and hurt prices of the stocks concerned.
In the first seven trading days this month, large shareholders sold 543 million shares worth 14.02 billion yuan ($2.13 billion) in various companies, according to the China Securities Journal.
This almost matched similar selling through all of May, which saw big shareholders' sales of 435 million shares worth 14.43 billion yuan.
Each large shareholder holds more than five percent in a company's stock.
According to the Journal, 45 companies, through 52 filings, disclosed large shareholders' plans to sell 1.216 billion shares worth 29.14 billion yuan or $4.43 billion.
They will sell these shares gradually in three months to a year as per regulations. A big shareholder is required to disclose any substantial paring of its holding and complete such sales within a given timeframe.
Since the beginning of May, big shareholders in nine companies listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen disclosed that they are going to sell all their holdings. Among them, three firms will see big shareholders selling shares worth more than 1 billion yuan within 12 months.
Many of the companies that are seeing selling by large shareholders are small- to medium-cap enterprises in emerging sectors such as biochemicals and high-tech.
For instance, Shanghai Hile Bio-Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, a drugmaker, has seen heavy selling in their counters.
On May 3, the first trading day of the month, shares in Hile Bio-Pharma closed at 42.97 yuan in Shanghai. But by June 1, they fell to 16.37 yuan. They closed at 15.22 yuan on Friday, marking a 65 percent decline since May 3.
Although the meltdown is attributable to the automatic price shrinkage due to the company's 13-for-10 stock split on May 4, the large shareholders' selling is also believed to be a major factor.
A research note from Ping An Securities said quite a number of companies in emerging sectors listed recently, suggesting that large shareholders may be exiting to secure their gains.
Citing filings, analysts attributed the selloff to big shareholders' desire to stay liquid.
A research note from Chang Xin Asset Management said recent paring of holdings had a limited impact on the A-share market so far, given the small size of sales relative to the whole market. But small investors holding shares in these stocks may feel the pinch due to falls in prices.
Zhang Shaofen, 56, a Shanghai-based small investor, said it is understandable if big shareholders like institutional investors reduce their holdings to boost their liquidity. But, if individuals such as company founders or senior executives, or their family members, are behind such sales, it could mean they are cashing out or eager to get rid of the company's shares for some reason.
"Usually, individual large shareholders have close knowledge of a company's profitability, operations and financial situation. If such individuals sell shares in bulk deals, small investors may interpret the move as a sign of erosion of confidence in the company's future."
But brokerages said block deals do not necessarily mean big shareholders are giving up on the company or that they are cashing out or exiting for good.
A research note from Guangfa Securities said some block deals could well be in anticipation of possible mergers and acquisitions. M&A activity usually stands a better chance of success when the equity structure is clear and simple.
Ping An Insurance Group yesterday reported a nearly 40 percent jump in net profit last year on stellar life insurance sales and investment returns.
Ping An, Asia's second-largest insurance company by market value, said its net profit rose 38 percent to 54.2 billion yuan ($8.3 billion) in 2015, the highest since 2003.
Strong life insurance sales and a surge of investment returns partly from the bullish Chinese stock market in the first half of last year helped drive up the profits.
The company reported that premiums for life insurance rose 20 percent to 299.8 billion yuan, and the gross investment returns jumped 80.1 percent to 114.75 billion yuan last year.
Timothy Chan, the group's chief investment officer, told reporters yesterday that he expected more uncertainties this year and would seek more investment opportunities in blue-chip stocks, preferred stocks and fixed assets, especially logistic infrastructure in first and second-tier cities.
Guotai Junan Securities said in a note that Ping An's investment returns this year is likely to fall but its core insurance business remains in good shape.
The life insurance sector has benefited from greater focus on offering protection type of policies than capital-consuming investment-related ones.
The property and casualty sector has also outperformed industrial average in managing costs, the note said.
Analysts also said the group's more than 10 Internet financing branches spanning wealth management, e-commerce, health care consulting, and home sales will bring more revenue as well as clients.
China vows to further open up domestic markets to foreign investors with fewer restrictions as the country's economic reform goes deeper.
"We have largely slashed restrictions to market access to the Chinese market to further lure foreign investment," said Lian Weiliang, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, at a news briefing on Wednesday.
He added that restrictions over the proportion of foreign equity have also been further eased in the foreign-invested projects, especially in the service and manufacturing sectors.
"It's very important to set up a new system for an open economy and create a business environment that is more legalized and more international", he said. "And the country's efforts have paid off."
China's foreign investment has bucked the trend of the cooling global economy to increase 9.2 percent during January-August, among which investment in the service sector surged 20.1 percent from a year earlier.
In March, the country halved the number of industries that used to be off-limits to foreign investors, another big step toward a more favorable business environment amid reforms.
Lian said the country has been gradually shifting to the "negative list" approach to better regulate market access and encourage foreign investment.
The negative list, which identifies sectors and businesses that are off-limits for investment and allows investment in all other sectors, was first announced in September 2013 in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone and then extended to the other three FTZs in Guangdong, Tianjin and Fujian a year later.
Retail investors check share prices at a brokerage in Qingdao, Shandong province, on Aug 18. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index plunged by 6.15 percent to close at 3,748.16 points.
Share prices plunged on Tuesday as jittery investors resorted to huge sell-offs on concerns that the government has halted its plan to buy equities to stabilize the market.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index sank by 6.15 percent, or 245.5 points, to close at 3,748.16. It was the biggest loss in three weeks since an 8.5 percent dip on July 27.
State-owned enterprises, which are expected to undergo major ownership reforms, led the decline with more than 1,600 stocks on both the Shanghai and Shenzhen bourses tumbling by the 10 percent daily limit.
The market slump came after the country's securities regulator said on Friday that the State-owned margin lender China Securities Finance Corp will not step into the market unless there are abnormal market fluctuations.
The regulator's announcement has been widely interpreted as a signal that the government is ending its direct intervention and letting the market mechanism play a bigger role after the benchmark rebounded by about 15 percent from a bottom on July 8.
But Tuesday's decline underscored that investors' sentiment remained fragile as a slowing economy and the depreciation of the yuan continued to weigh on the market.
Jiang Chao, an analyst with Haitong Securities Co, said that the monetary authorities appear to be in a dilemma over the easing policies and the monetary uncertainty may continue to destabilize the market.
"There is need to inject more liquidity as the depreciation of the yuan is likely to trigger capital outflows. But the market rescue efforts have led to a surge in the broad monetary supply which created a policy dilemma," he said in a research note.
The recovery of the country's home prices has also dimmed investors' expectation for further monetary easing, some analysts said.
Li Daxiao, chief economist at Yingda Securities Co, urged investors not to overreact to Tuesday's decline, but warned about the risk of excess valuations of companies in the military industry.
Share prices of listed military-related companies have ballooned substantially ahead of the country's military parade commemorating the end of World War II and on expectations of major reforms.
The average valuation of the industry has been ranked the top among all industries with the price-to-earnings ratio of most companies exceeding 100 times, according to estimates.
"There is a big risk of the bubble bursting in military-related stocks, which is even worse than the startup board," Li said.
Chinese shares bounced back from early morning losses and closed sharply higher on Tuesday following a nightmarish two weeks.
After a two-week tumble, China stocks surged on Tuesday as a series of government measures bolstered investor confidence.
The CSI 300 Index, which monitors share prices of the largest companies listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen, jumped by 6.7 percent to 4,473.00 points, while the Shanghai Composite Index gained 5.6 percent to 4,277.22 points, the highest daily gain since 2009. The Chinese A-share market has fallen by about 20 percent from its peak in mid-June.
A series of measures to maintain market confidence have been introduced since Friday, including draft rules to allow pension funds to buy stocks, funds and equity-backed pension products.
That could channel more than 1.5 trillion yuan ($242 billion) into equity-backed investments, including about 15 billion yuan directly into the A-share market, Shanghai Securities News reported.
Pension funds may not be allowed to buy stocks before the end of this year, according to the draft rules, but investor confidence has been bolstered by the news, pushing up sentiments in the A-share market, researchers said.
"Although the pension funds may not help the A-share market in the short term, the draft measure, along with the recent cuts in the reserve requirement ratio and interest rates, show intentions to stabilize market incentives," a research report by Haitong Securities said.
The country's fund association said the falling prices presented valuable buying opportunities and it urged hedge fund managers to make rational investment decisions.
"Confidence is more important than gold," the Asset Management Association of China said on Tuesday. "Sunshine always follows rainy days," it added.
Brokerage firm Guotai Junan Securities said it would lower margin requirements for certain blue chips to lever-age investment values.
Leading asset managers echoed the sentiments to convince investors that the bull market was not yet over.
Managers of private equity funds also stated that they believe the market will continue to be bullish.
"From a mid-to long-term perspective, the foundations of the bull market have not been shaken. Instead, they have been consolidated amid corrections, and the market will be bullish in a more stable and lasting manner. We believe it is a rational decision and good timing for value investing," said Wang Yawei, president of Shenzhen Qianhe Capital Management.
Technology companies and brokerage stocks rallied on Tuesday, with an average rise of the sectors reaching about 8 percent.
Mainland stock markets tumbled in late afternoon trading Thursday as investors cashed in on gains from earlier in the day.
The Shanghai Composite Index fell 3.46 percent or 162.37 points to 4,527.78 points Thursday. The Shenzhen Component Index lost 3.80 percent or 619.87 points to close at 15,692.44 points.
The CSI 300 Index of the biggest companies traded in Shanghai and Shenzhen fell 3.56 percent or 173.61 points to 4,706.52 points.
A total of 1.55 trillion yuan ($249.71 billion) changed hands on the two bourses, up from the previous trading day's 1.49 trillion yuan.
News about the central government's decision to scrap the debt-to-loan ratio for banks sent heavily weighted financial stocks soaring during morning trading, pushing the Shanghai benchmark above the 4,700 point mark by midday.
However, in the afternoon session, banking heavyweights took a hit as cautious investors decided to take some profit, dragging down the Shanghai index.
Despite the good news about the debt-to-loan ratio, the banking sector still suffered losses, indicating weak investor sentiment, New Times Securities said in a note Thursday.
The regulatory approval of a new batch of IPOs may have also contributed to the fragile sentiment.
The China Securities Regulatory Commission said late Wednesday that it has approved 28 new IPOs, which media reports said would freeze more than 1.4 trillion yuan.
The coal and nonferrous metal sectors were among the worst performers Thursday. Gansu Jingyuan Coal Industry and Electricity Power Co, Shaanxi Coal Industry Co, Anhui Jingcheng Copper Share Co and Shenghe Resources Holding Co fell 9.46 percent, 9.04 percent, 9.45 percent and 9.20 percent, respectively.
ChiNext, the country's NASDAQ-style board for high-tech and emerging start-ups, slumped 5.23 percent or 177.02 points to close at 3,206.38 points.
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