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World Economic Forum

Hong Kong again takes world top spot in financial rankings

World Economic Forum says city's finance system still the best on the planet, while mainland slips to 23rd out of 62 countries

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 4:48am

Hong Kong has been named the world's top financial centre for the second year running by the World Economic Forum.

The independent organisation gave the city top spot again because of its solid business infrastructure, abundant human capital and low-tax environment.

The ranking was based on performance in a range of categories, including legal environment and financial stability.

The mainland fell to 23rd place from 19th last year as its score dropped 0.12 points to 4, on a scale of 1 to 7. This is the first time the mainland has slid in its overall score since the forum started its Financial Development Index in 2008.

"The biggest drop China posted was in financial access," forum associate director Isabella Reuttner said.

The mainland's foreign direct investment, capital market liberalisation, access to credit, as well as equity financing all weakened, Reuttner said, adding that instability in its banking system also grew.

But the mainland scored high in non-banking financial services, with especially robust initial public offering and merger and acquisition activity. Business environment - which includes factors such as human capital, tax, infrastructure and cost of doing business - remains the biggest problem.

Hong Kong took the No1 spot in a list of 62 countries, scoring 5.31, up 0.15 percentage points from last year.

Last year, Hong Kong leapfrogged the United States and Britain to top the forum's Financial Development Index for the first time, after coming fourth in 2010.

Analysts said then that Hong Kong's explosive listing volume, low tax rates and status as the top offshore yuan trading centre had boosted its ranking.

The city's status as a financial hub would help attract more fund-raising activity and financial talent, they predicted.

"The fact that Hong Kong has maintained its status shows critical qualities such as free flow of capital and information, rule of law and financial infrastructure are still in place," Raymond Yeung, an economist at ANZ Bank, said.

Yeung added that Hong Kong's leading position as an international yuan centre also helped boost its ranking as a financial centre.

Of the seven categories in the forum's assessment, Hong Kong topped the charts in banking financial services, came second in business environment and fourth in financial markets and financial access.

The other parameters were institutional environment, financial stability and non-banking financial services.

The US ranked second this year, Britain third and Singapore fourth.