Following is the full text of remarks (English only) by the Financial Secretary, Mr Antony Leung, at the Grand Opening Ceremony for AXA Asia Life Regional Centre today (October 18):
Mark [Pearson], ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here to attend the opening ceremony for AXA Asia Life Regional Centre.
As the world's biggest insurance company, AXA is well known to consumers as well as the insurance profession in Hong Kong and worldwide. We are very pleased that AXA has decided to expand its operations here. Its new regional centre, situated right at the 24th floor of this building, will become the nerve centre for managing the company's portfolios in 12 Asia Pacific markets. It is also from here that the company masterminds its development strategies in what promises to be the world's fastest growing insurance market - China.
I can assure that you have made the right choice to locate your regional base in Hong Kong. We have the advantages of being close - not only physically, but also culturally and linguistically - to Mainland China. We are the freest economy in the world. We offer the free and fast flow of information. We have a clean government and level playing field, guaranteed by the rule of law. You will find here a highly efficient financial services system and infrastructure. And most importantly, a business-friendly government which sees itself very much as your partner.
I am sure I do not have to elaborate on this last point. My colleagues in Invest Hong Kong must have demonstrated it thoroughly during their contact with you. They will continue to take care of the needs of companies like AXA, and advise me and my colleagues in other departments on how we could better facilitate your future business expansions.
In fact, since its establishment in July 2000, this young government body has assisted foreign companies to complete 85 investment projects in Hong Kong. The total amount of investment generated was over HK$2 billion, and over 1,000 new jobs were created. In the year 2000, we topped the foreign direct investment inflows in Asia with the total amount of US$64 billion, an impressive 162% increase over 1999.
AXA's strengthened presence in Hong Kong would reinforce our attractiveness as an investment destination. It will further bolster our position as a regional insurance centre. Since 1995, the industry has been growing at a rate of over 7% per year. In the year 2000, gross premium income was estimated to be about HK$64 billion, equivalent to five per cent of our GDP.
I am sure the opening of the Asian Regional Centre will also mark a significant step in strengthening AXA's already strong world presence. Let me extend my very warm welcome and congratulations to the company and its staff on this remarkable occasion. I wish you success in your future endeavours.
End/Thursday, October 18, 2001