HKEx's fling with BRICS won't woo local investors
As befits a blossoming love affair, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and its latest darling, the BRICS Exchange Alliance, cannot get enough of each other. The HKEx and the four bourses that make up the alliance will launch their first product at the end of this month, only five months after the union was formed.
That is record-breaking speed for any product launch, but whether Hong Kong investors will share the passion is another matter.
The HKEx last week said it and the stock exchanges of Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa would cross-list each other's benchmark equity-index futures from March 30. This was the first move by the BRICS Exchange Alliance after it was formed in October to expand product lines and investors.
From March 30, investors in the exchanges in Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa will be able to trade futures of the Hang Seng Index and Hang Seng China Enterprises Index in their local times and currencies.
Likewise, Hong Kong investors will be able to use Hong Kong dollars to trade Brazil's Ibovespa futures, Russia's Micex Index futures, India's Sensex Index futures and South Africa's FTSE/JSE Top 40.
In theory, the alliance sounds great as the first link-up of exchanges in the emerging market bloc. At the establishment of the alliance in October, the exchanges had a combined 9,481 listed companies, with a total market capitalisation of US$9.02 trillion. Their combined monthly turnover stands at US$422 billion, and they represent 18 per cent of all listed derivative trading worldwide.
But few brokers or investors have shown the same excitement as the HKEx. In fact, since last week's announcement futures brokers have paid scant attention to it.
The simple fact is that Hong Kong investors have little knowledge of these exchanges. These markets are not even on the travel itineraries for many Hongkongers, while local media has given little attention to them.
Can anyone in Hong Kong name the top five companies in Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa? Try to ask your colleagues or friends and you will realise why few investors here have any interest in the futures products being offered.
Professional investors may be interested in cross trading, but why would they need to trade in Brazilian or Indian futures via Hong Kong?
Hong Kong investors are more interested in mainland-related futures products, as they know the mainland markets much better than those overseas.
This explains why cross-listing plans have had little success. Few now remember the exchange's big ambitions in May 2000, when it launched a pilot scheme for the seven Nasdaq-listed stocks - Microsoft, Intel, Dell Computer, Cisco Systems, Applied Materials, biochemical company Amgen and Starbucks - to trade in the Hong Kong stock market.
Trading was so thin that most of the time there was no activity at all in these companies.
If US corporations cannot stir up the interests of investors in Hong Kong, what hope do the BRICS Exchange Alliance futures products have?
Watch this space and we will update you after March 30.