(C) Bloomberg. The corporate flag for Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. (HKEX), right, and the Chinese flag, left, fly outside the Exchange Square complex in Hong Kong, China, on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. The Hong Kong bourse’s unsolicited takeover bid for the London Stock Exchange Group Plc was greeted with a scathing rejection and the exchange suffered a further humiliation when China praised the rebuff as well. Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg
(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong stock exchange’s boss called for confidence that the city will maintain its “undisputed” role as Asia’s financial nave even as it battles the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak and political unrest.
“I don’t see anything on the horizon that’s going to fundamentally change that,” Chief Executive Officer Charles Li said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “But it’s required of all of us to maintain confidence, to maintain our belief this great city is going to become even greater once we are able to get over on the other side of the current public health challenges and other challenges.”
Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. faces what could be an even more turbulent year than 2019, when political unrest dragged down trading and brought revenue growth to a near standstill. At the same time, the bourse is now set to welcome a slew of China’s corporate giants after years of lobbying from Li and growing political tension between the U.S. and China.
HKEX shares have retraced losses after on Friday posting their biggest drop in a year as investors were spooked by a Beijing plan to impose security legislation on the city. The push sparked protests over the weekend and more are brewing on Wednesday near the city’s Legislative Council, where lawmakers plan to hold a hearing on a bill that would criminalize disrespect toward China’s national anthem.
Li said he was not “looking into any specific political initiatives” since “they come, they go.”
“We have no control over them,” he said. “We just have the commercial initiatives that go into the heart of enhancing Hong Kong’s global competitiveness. And that remains unchanged.”
Authorities, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam, have this week sought to reassure investors that Beijing’s plans wouldn’t alter the city’s freedoms and threaten its status as a financial hub. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority issued a statement late Tuesday, saying the security law wouldn’t impede the free flow of capital.
That would be crucial for Li’s vision to make the exchange a gateway to China for foreign investors. The CEO, who announced he’s stepping down when in October next year, has pushed through a number of changes to lure more of China’s corporate giants to list in the city, away from New York.
Reforms over the past years have allowed the exchange to attract tech behemoth Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) Holdings Inc. to do a $13 billion dual listing last year. Companies such as JD (NASDAQ:JD).com Inc. and NetEase (NASDAQ:NTES) Inc. are planning to follow suit next month even amid rising tension.
Before the security bill rekindled protests, the exchange last week received a string of good news. The U.S. Senate unveiled a bill that could bar Chinese listings, while Nasdaq Inc. moved to clamp down on such listings after an accounting scandal erupted at Chinese coffee chain Luckin Coffee (NASDAQ:LK) Inc., which is listed in New York. Optimism was also stoked by changes to the city’s benchmark Hang Seng index to include China’s corporate giants.
The exchange on Wednesday revealed a licensing agreement with MSCI (NYSE:MSCI) Inc. to offer 37 futures and options contracts based on MSCI equity indexes in Asia and emerging markets.
The agreement is “absolutely a vote of confidence” in Hong Kong, Li said.
(C)2020 Bloomberg L.P.
HKEX CEO Calls for Confidence in Hong Kong’s Status as Financial Hub