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Hong Kong struggles to convince CEOs to be open to business

‘We’re back!’ Hong Kong’s Finance Secretary Paul Chan shows China’s cities are open to business after coronavirus measures lifted hurting status as international financial hub said at a conference aimed at

However, Chan himself did not return at all. After contracting Covid-19 during a business trip, he was stranded in the Middle East due to Hong Kong’s remaining pandemic restrictions and appeared at a fintech gathering on Monday via video link.

The case summed up the challenges Hong Kong faces in persuading global investors to return to a territory that imposed weeks-long quarantines and unpredictable flight bans throughout much of the pandemic.

The fintech conference is part of a week-long gathering that includes a global forum for financial institution chief executives and the return of the famous rugby sevens tournament, and the government hopes that Hong Kong will re-engage with the business community. would like to announce

But at least three senior executives withdrew from Wednesday’s investment summit of global financial leaders, and two more were absent.

Blackstone said president Jonathan Gray will be unable to attend due to COVID-19 and will be replaced by Chief Financial Officer Michael Che. Citigroup Chief Executive Jane Fraser also stepped down after the coronavirus deal and was replaced by wealth management chief Anand Selva.

Barclays Chief Executive CS Venkatakrishnan has ‘changed travel plans’. Meanwhile, Timothy Armor, chairman of Capital Group, his manager of US funds, and Valerie Bordson, chief executive of Amundi, one of Europe’s largest asset managers, have also been amended. It was not included in the original plan. Wednesday agenda. Capital Group and Amundi did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Some executives say Hong Kong’s remaining coronavirus rules, including pre-departure and on-arrival Covid testing, risk undermining the city’s return to the world stage.

Johannes Hack, a bank executive and chairman of the German Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, said measures such as checks on arrival should be abolished.

“I can’t ask you to come to Hong Kong unless your boss has to worry that your trip will be interrupted if he tests positive,” Huck said. “If I say, ‘I’m coming for two days, but I might get stuck for a week,’ [they are] I’m going to say no.

Hong Kong Finance Minister Paul Chan to speak video at FinTech Week
Hong Kong Finance Minister Paul Chan was forced to deliver a video address to Fintech Week attendees after contracting the coronavirus © Bertha Wang/Bloomberg

Visitors arriving in Hong Kong must undergo a week-long PCR test and are not allowed to go to restaurants or bars for at least the first three days. If positive, you must quarantine for 7 days.

Certain participants at financial forums and fintech conferences have been exempted from certain requirements. For example, a bank CEO who tests positive will be allowed to leave town on a private jet.

Hong Kong leader John Lee on Tuesday dismissed concerns about attendance figures at the global forum, which will continue to be attended by the chief executives of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. “[Those] Including those who can not participate in the event, it is a small number of people. ..still he has over 200 attendees, which is in line with our expectations,” he said.

However, the physical absence of panelists from mainland China underscored the impact of the severe travel restrictions imposed by Beijing as part of its COVID-19 response. Regulators, including the governor of the People’s Bank of China and the vice chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, attended the fintech conference via taped speeches and livestream video links.

Still, Bank of China Governor Liu Jin was scheduled to make his first public appearance outside mainland China since taking office in 2021, to attend the global forum. Treasury Secretary Chan was also scheduled to attend after returning home late. He went to Hong Kong on Tuesday and tested negative for Covid.

Hong Kong is desperate to restore its reputation lost to a lengthy coronavirus quarantine and crackdown on civil liberties following mass pro-democracy protests in 2019.

The city’s economy contracted 4.5% year-on-year in the third quarter. That’s much worse than the 0.8% drop economists expected and the worst drop since the second quarter of 2020.

At a fintech conference, many executives said they were thrilled to return to Hong Kong and the city’s proposal to allow retail trading of crypto assets. There is also

“It was very frustrating not being able to do much in the first few days and then all the tests,” said one participant. “I think Hong Kong could really come back, but it’s only being blocked by these rules.”

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