International investment bankers are looking at the Hong Kong and PRC economic developments and buying into them rather than paying attention to Western media. We explain the fundamentals of the banks’ bullishness about Hong Kong and China.
The Chairman of the Swiss-based UBS Investment Bank, Colm Kelleher, the world’s largest fund manager, has stated that “global bankers are all very pro-China” at the Global Financial Leaders Investment Summit currently being held in Hong Kong. “We’re not reading the American press, we are buying the China story,” said Kelleher.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee welcomed some of Wall Street’s top executives to its biggest international event in years. Speaking at the widely anticipated investment summit, which included more than 200 bankers and investment leaders from 20 countries, Lee said that Hong Kong was “opening once again” for international business after more than two and a half years of Covid restrictions.
Attendees included senior executives such as Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, UBS chairman Colm Kelleher and HSBC CEO Noel Quinn. Lee firmly stated his intention to keep Hong Kong competitive for global financiers.
China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) Vice Chairman Fang Xinghai said that Hong Kong was a “very, very important” financial centre for China. China’s authorities, he said, were keen for more international companies to list in Hong Kong to grow the city’s capital market activities.
Fang also told attendees: “I would advise international investors to find out what’s really going on in China and what’s the real intention of our government by themselves. Don’t read too much of the international media. Don’t bet against China and Hong Kong.”
Underlying positive fundamentals
There are strong underlying reasons for the optimism among the global banking community. As concerns Hong Kong itself, there are the numerous ‘Hong Kong Connect’ schemes that have been put in place but delayed due to Covid. These permit international finance and insurance companies to establish operations in the city and obtain licences to access mainland China’s estimated US$3 trillion in privately held wealth. Doing so will re-establish Hong Kong as a private wealth investment hub. Although the launch of the various schemes has been delayed due to Covid, the gradual reopening of Hong Kong and mainland China during the course of 2023 will see Hong Kong attract exactly the types of investors that have been attending the summit.
The second aspect is the on-going development of mainland China as outlined by President Xi Jinping at the recent CPC Congress in Beijing. At this, Xi stated that from now until 2035, the middle-class population of China would grow by another 400 million. To put that into context, that is more than the total population of the United States. As we explained here in terms of measuring the impact of this growth, according to statements made by China National Bureau of Statistics Commissioner Ning Jizhe in January 2022, China currently has more than 400 million middle-income earners, or 140 million families, as part of its 1.4 billion population. These existing middle-income earners are already a group larger than the total population of the United States, and are seen as key for the world’s second largest economy to resort to the domestic market for future growth.
China doesn’t provide an official definition of its middle-income group, as income levels vary considerably across the country. However, according to Ning, a typical Chinese family of three earns between 100,000 and 500,000 Yuan per annum – in US dollar terms between US$14,000-70,000 a year. That is expected to grow. Research conducted by the CPPCC – Beijing’s top political advisory body – earlier this year indicated that another 300 to 400 million people from China’s population have the potential to join this middle-income group and are based primarily in the private sector.
That is being achieved by a number of state policies, not least the ‘dual circulation’ strategy which dictates that the mainland China economy is to be based on increasing China’s exports, while at the same time boosting Chinese consumption. The latter is of the greater importance to international businesses, as this means that China is becoming even more open to importing foreign goods. An indicator of this is that this Monday (October 31) Beijing released new guidelines for its ‘encouraged industries’ catalogue, set to take effect from 1st January 2023 and the most liberal in terms of permitting foreign investment in China’s various industrial and commercial sectors than ever before. That means international investors and exporters have an even greater incentive to sell to China.
The global investment banking industry appears poised to support their domestic businesses to lend for these China – and Hong Kong – opportunities.
Source: China Briefing