HKEx firm on longer trading hours
The Hong Kong stock exchange is unlikely to budge from its plan to further extend trading hours in March next year despite another round of protests from small brokers yesterday.
About 200 banner-waving brokers gathered at the entrance of the stock exchange trading hall to express their frustration at what they said was the exchange's unwillingness to consider their grievances.
'We have submitted a 3,000-signature petition opposing the exchange plan to further extend trading hours,' said Patrick Lam Tak-ming, the chairman of the Hong Kong Securities & Futures Employees Union, which organised the protest.
'The extension of trading hours since March has not helped boost turnover but only increased the burden and costs of brokers. Many small brokers are already finding it hard to survive because the big players are putting pressure on us by charging unreasonably low fees.'
Lam said the small brokers hoped the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing would at its board meeting on Friday consider their petition and suspend plans to extend trading hours next year.
HKEx wants to match the trading hours of other international exchanges which open six to eight hours a day. Previously, the Hong Kong market opened only four hours daily and had the shortest trading hours of any major market.
In March, the exchange extended trading to five hours by opening the market 30 minutes earlier and cutting the two-hour lunch break by half an hour. It plans to further reduce the lunch break by another 30 minutes in March next year.
Several directors of HKEx said there was no need to change the plan. 'We understand the difficulties of the small brokers but we have to make sure the Hong Kong market matches international practice,' one director said. 'Most major markets such as Britain, the US and Australia no longer have lunch breaks. How can we continue to have a long lunch?'
But Lam said the brokers would not give up. 'If the HKEx board does not listen to our advice, we will protest again and have other actions to show our opposition in the next few months,' he said. 'We will not give up until the exchange listens to us.'
Brokers have arranged several marches in recent months to oppose the lunch cut and other parts of the reform plan.
For small brokers, with limited staff and capital, the earlier start and shorter lunch break are not about lingering over a cup of tea. They say the issue is about added costs that they say could drive them out of business.
The average daily turnover on the stock exchange in the first six months of this year, in HK$