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Budget Speech

International Financial Centre

129. A highly efficient financial market accelerates the development of the real economy by effectively matching capital with the needs of industry.  The financial industry is one of the pillars of Hong Kong's economy.  Hong Kong as an international financial centre is also our country's international financial centre, having an edge in "quantity" and "quality" that enables various financial areas to thrive.

Offshore Renminbi Business Hub

130. Our country is the world's second-largest economy.  The proportion of RMB as a global currency for international trade, investment and financing, cross‑border payment and reserves is increasing continuously, as the Mainland develops closer economic ties with other regions.  Market demand for RMB is becoming keener than ever.

131. As the world's largest offshore RMB business hub, Hong Kong processes about 75 per cent of global offshore RMB settlement.  We also have the world's largest offshore RMB liquidity pool, at over RMB 1 trillion.  To capitalise on this enormous opportunity, we will press ahead with the development of an offshore RMB ecosystem to promote the internationalisation of the RMB in a steady and prudent manner.

132. We are taking forward relevant work on various fronts.  It includes making continuous efforts to deepen mutual-market access schemes that facilitate RMB cross‑boundary investment and two‑way fund flows to enhance offshore RMB liquidity. It also includes encouraging financial institutions to provide more offshore RMB products and risk-management tools, and carrying out RMB financing in Hong Kong.  We will also develop the Central Moneymarkets Unit (CMU) into Asia's major international central securities depository platform. It will provide better support for RMB businesses such as cross‑border clearing, settlement and custodian services etc.

Mutual Market Access

133. Mutual-market access between financial markets in the Mainland and Hong Kong has been expanding in scope and capacity.  Bond Connect, the Cross‑boundary Wealth Management Connect Scheme, ETFs in Stock Connect and Swap Connect are among the many opportunities that have been implemented, one after another, in recent years.  The initiatives provide more asset allocation and risk‑management options for Mainland and international investors.

134. This year, HKEX will host the 10th Anniversary of Mutual Access Forum to share our experience with the industry and explore how best to inject new impetus into the regime.  We will stage a series of roadshows in the Mainland to promote mutual market access further.

135. We are now in discussion with Mainland authorities over the introduction of block trading, the inclusion of RMB counters under the Southbound Trading of Stock Connect, and the expansion of the mutual-market access regime to cover REITs, bringing in more enterprises and capital to the Hong Kong market.

Asset and Wealth Management Centre

136. Hong Kong is an international asset and wealth management centre, with assets under management amounting to more than HK$30 trillion.  It is also Asia's largest hedge-fund centre and the second-largest centre for private equity management after the Mainland.  Currently, there are more than 250 open‑ended fund companies and 780 limited partnership funds registered in Hong Kong.

137. To drive market development, the Government will extend the Grant Scheme for Open‑ended Fund Companies and Real Estate Investment Trusts for three years, and set up a task force to discuss with the industry measures for further developing the asset and wealth management industry.

138. Attracting global family offices and asset owners to Hong Kong will help bring in more capital and drive ancillary economic activities.  We have implemented a number of measures, including providing tax concessions for qualifying transactions of family‑owned investment holding vehicles managed by single family offices in Hong Kong, and streamlining the suitability assessment when dealing with sophisticated professional investors.

139. The new Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (new CIES) will soon invite applications.  Eligible investors who invest HK$27 million or more in qualifying assets and place HK$3 million into a new CIES Investment Portfolio may apply to reside in and pursue development in Hong Kong.  The new CIES will help strengthen our advantages in developing the asset and wealth management industry and related professional service sectors in Hong Kong, while supporting the I&T sector's development.

140. We are setting the stage for the second Wealth for Good in Hong Kong Summit in end‑March in a bid to showcase Hong Kong's unique advantages to global family offices and asset owners.  In addition, we will further enhance the preferential tax regimes for related funds, single family offices and carried interest, including reviewing the scope of the tax concession regimes, increasing the types of qualifying transactions and enhancing flexibility in handling incidental transactions, all to attract more funds and family offices with potential to establish a presence in Hong Kong.

Securities Market

141. We are keen to foster the development of the securities market into one with greater depth, breadth and vibrancy, thereby consolidating and enhancing market competitiveness.  I have explained this in detail in paragraphs 45 to 48.

Bond Market

142. As a long‑standing leader in bond issuance in Asia, Hong Kong has ranked first in the region for seven consecutive years in terms of the volume of international bond issuance.  In the last Budget, I proposed to expand the scope of the Government Green Bond Programme to cover sustainable finance projects and take forward the Infrastructure Bond Scheme to raise capital for infrastructure projects, thereby facilitating the early completion of projects for the good of the economy and people's livelihood.  We will set a borrowing ceiling of a total of $500 billion for these two programmes to allow more flexibility in quota re‑allocation.  The sums borrowed will be credited to the Capital Works Reserve Fund for investment in projects which are conducive to long-term development.  These two programmes will gradually replace the existing Government Bond Programme.

143. In 2024‑25, we will issue $120 billion worth of bond, of which $70 billion will be retail tranche that includes $50 billion worth of Silver Bond, and $20 billion worth of green bonds and infrastructure bonds to achieve financial inclusiveness and enhance a "sense of participation" in infrastructure and sustainable development among the public.

Deepen Financial Co-operation in the GBA

144. The Cross‑boundary Wealth Management Connect (WMC) Scheme in the GBA has seen continuous and steady development.  "WMC 2.0" was officially launched earlier this week, introducing such enhancement measures as increasing the individual investor quota to RMB 3 million and lowering the threshold for participating in the Southbound Scheme.

145. To help enterprises secure financing in the GBA more easily, the HKMA and Mainland regulatory authorities will continue to build a collaborative framework on cross‑boundary credit referencing. Through such collaboration, the banks of both places, upon consent from corporate customers, will be allowed to access the credit data of relevant corporations, so that credit assessment can be conducted in a more secure and efficient manner.

Specialty Insurance Market

146. As an international risk-management centre, Hong Kong provides diversified risk-management channels, including professional insurance services.  We have been making dedicated efforts to invite Mainland and overseas enterprises to establish captive insurers in Hong Kong, enhancing their corporate risk-management capabilities.  We are also promoting the development of insurance‑linked securities (ILS) by establishing a dedicated regulatory regime and launching a pilot grant scheme.  To date, we have facilitated the issuance of four catastrophe bonds in Hong Kong, one of which marked the inaugural listing of its type of ILS.  We will continue to attract more issuing institutes to Hong Kong, while nurturing talent and propelling the industry's development.

Create Strong Impetus for Growth in the Financial Services Industry

147. To bolster the competitiveness and advantages of the financial services industry in Hong Kong, the Government will earmark $100 million to promote the sustainable development of financial services.  This includes green and sustainable finance, fintech, asset and wealth management, headquarters business, and risk management etc.



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