The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) is planning to award a new batch of QFII quotas to overseas investors who have been waitlisted in a queue since October 2006, according to a fund industry source in Beijing. This follows the regulatorÆs promise to triple the total foreign institutional quota from $10 billion in November 2007.

Fund management house China Asset Management and brokerage firm Ping An Securities are said to have already signed up portfolio advisory, discretionary management and trading deals with the QFII candidates.

Likely high on the queue are Capital International, Fidelity, Robeco and State Street.

The regulator was inclined to give out quotas to Korean and Japanese investors as a gesture to improve regional political ties, the source says. The investors include those involved in long-term capital in the insurance, pension and asset management sectors. In March, Columbia University and Prudential Asset Management in Korea received confirmation on their newly approved QFII status.

However, following a round of intensive lobbying by global financial houses, the CSRC will most likely adhere to sequence on the QFII queue, handing quotas to those first in line, the source says.

ôThe regulator is still highly concerned with the performance of the A-share market,ö says a fund executive in Shanghai, who sees the move as one similar to other moves to stimulate the market in the near-term. The source notes that, in the previous slide in the domestic equities market, measures such as the cutting of the stamp duty helped boost the market.

The government cut the stamp duty on shares from 0.3% to 0.1% in April. It also announced new regulations to restrict the direct sale of non-tradable A-shares to the secondary market, once they become floatable. This eased fears of a supply overhang in the A-share market, and both measures boosted investor sentiment in April and May.

The stamp duty measure worked for a while, but the market has already digested the news and has since returned to its slump, the source says.

On Monday, the Shanghai A-share Index closed at 3,014.74 points, down 45% year-to-date, while the Shenzhen A-share Index closed at 879.25 points, down 42% year-to-date.

ôFor a long time, we have wondered why it took them so long to release the new QFII quota,ö the source says. Now that the market has weakened again, ôthey feel it is time to act againö.

Separately, industry sources say the CSRC has recently issued a gag order, noting that ôfund managers should not express personal opinions in sensitive market momentsö. Senior level management staff have also been forbidden from travelling overseas since the Sichuan earthquake, sources say.