By Tracy Qu

Nicolas Aguzin will step down as the head of Hong Kong's stock exchange three months earlier than planned, as the Asian financial hub struggles with an initial public offering drought and a market downturn.

Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing said Friday that Aguzin will leave the company at the end of February, adding that he had informed the board that "he believes it would be in the interest of HKEX to accelerate the change in leadership." Aguzin's term was to end in May after he said in December that he wouldn't seek reappointment.

The board has appointed Bonnie Chan, HKEX's co-chief operating officer, as the new CEO. She will serve a three-year term from March 1.

Aguzin, a former executive at JPMorgan Chase, joined HKEX in 2021 and is credited with steering the stock exchange through a difficult period marked by pandemic lockdowns, rising U.S.-China tensions and high global interest rates that led to a pullback by international investors.

Notable listings in Hong Kong during that time included those of Chinese electric-vehicle maker XPeng, which raised $1.8 billion in 2021, and fellow EV maker Zhejiang Leapmotor Technology, which raised $800 million in 2022.

"Against a challenging macro backdrop shaped by Covid and weak global markets, Aguzin has strengthened HKEX's core competencies and enhanced HKEX's international presence," HKEX said in a statement.

Chan's appointment comes as Hong Kong's position as a top IPO destination is in question, with investors pessimistic about China's slowing economy and equity-market rout.

According to the exchange, HKEX had 73 new listings in 2023 that raised 46.3 billion Hong Kong dollars ($5.92 billion), down 56% from total equity funds raised in IPOs in 2022 and down 86% from the amount raised in 2021.

Last year, the Hang Seng Index fell 14%, its fourth consecutive annual loss. Hong Kong's benchmark stock index has declined 7.6% so far this year, making it one of Asia's worst performers.

Write to Tracy Qu at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

02-09-24 0522ET