Following is the speech by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Mr Frederick Ma, at the Opening Cocktail of RBC Capital Markets in Hong Kong today (April 29)(English only):
Mr Archer-Shee, Mr Burbridge, ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here with you this evening to celebrate the grand opening of RBC Capital Markets in Hong Kong.
On behalf of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, I welcome RBC Capital Markets to Hong Kong at a time when our economy has staged a V-shaped rebound from its trough during the outbreak of SARS last year. For 2003 as a whole, GDP grew 3.3% in real terms, a visible improvement over the 2.3% for 2002. Foreign direct investment inflows reached US$13.54 billion, an increase of nearly US$4 billion over that of 2002. These figures clearly demonstrate the resilience and robustness of Hong Kong's economy.
I can assure RBC Capital Markets that it has made a wise strategic move by establishing a foothold here. As the world's freest economy, Hong Kong offers many advantages for financial institutions, including an efficient and reliable financial market infrastructure, a fair and transparent regulatory regime, low and stable tax system, unrestricted flow of capital and information, and a critical mass of talents with global exposure and experience.
But what sets Hong Kong apart as the region's first-choice investment destination is that Hong Kong has the great advantage in leveraging on its special relationship with the Mainland. The signing of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement ("CEPA") last year further reinforces our position as the bridge between the Mainland and the international market. CEPA unprecedentedly provides Hong Kong professionals and businesses in a wide range of service sectors with "first-mover" and "WTO-plus" advantages in the further opening up of the Mainland market.
Hong Kong is a leading international financial centre in the region. Our stock market, with market capitalisation of US$740 billion, is Asia's second, just after Tokyo. In 2003, there were 73 IPO issues on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong. Together with secondary offerings, more than US$27 billion was raised during the year, nearly double the figure for 2002. Particularly important is that Hong Kong is the single largest foreign capital centre for Mainland enterprises, with over US$100 billion in funds raised since early 1990s.
We are committed to facilitating the development of our financial markets. A recent Government initiative is to deepen the bond market by providing more diversified products for our retail and institutional investors. This would in turn promote demand for these products and encourage more Hong Kong, Mainland and foreign enterprises to issue bonds here. This will not only help attract overseas capital, but also enhance the healthy development of our financial markets. The Government has achieved much progress in this respect. We shall continue to upgrade the necessary financial infrastructure and streamline the issuance process.
We are seeing more and more Mainland and foreign investors participating in our financial markets. With the Government joining efforts with the industry, I envisage that this trend will continue in the years to come, benefiting RBC Capital Markets and many other financial service providers.
Invest Hong Kong, the Government department responsible for spearheading Hong Kong's efforts to attract inward investment, will continue its efforts to promote our competitive edge as the preferred business hub in Asia. It stands ready to offer support to foreign companies that are already here.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me extend a warm welcome to RBC Capital Markets. Congratulations and I wish you a good start and every success in the future.
Ends/Thursday, April 29, 2004