Chinese companies applying to go public in the United States are facing increasingly detailed questions from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about their offshore corporate structures, according to people familiar with the matter.

Many of the SEC's queries have focused on the nature and direction of cash flows through so-called variable interest entities (VIEs), which allow Chinese companies to circumvent Beijing's restrictions on foreign ownership, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private.

SEC officials have asked the firms to quantify transfers and dividends between the parent company and other entities, as well as their respective balances and any tax implications, the people said. The regulator has also asked for additional disclosures on political and regulatory risks in China, one of the people said, adding that new applicants may face as many as 20 more questions than was typical before this month.

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