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Chinese firms trading in Hong Kong step into the spotlight as arts and sport sponsors

Second night and finale of next year’s Arts Festival sponsored by two big mainland banks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 November, 2017, 11:15am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 November, 2017, 5:46pm

Mainland Chinese companies have replaced US firms as Hong Kong’s largest non-local financial firms, according to the securities regulator. Now the same Chinese companies have displaced their US counterparts as the city’s biggest arts event sponsors.

The Securities and Futures Commission reports that 13 per cent of local brokers, fund houses and financial advisers are now owned by mainland companies.

Separate data from the city’s arts festival organiser shows that these companies are not only interested in trading stocks and funds but are also keen on supporting arts events.

The 46th Hong Kong Arts Festival has a HK$125 million (US$16 million) budget for the more than 100 programmes to be performed by over 1,700 artists worldwide in February and March next year. Its income sources include 14 per cent from Hong Kong government funding, 32 per cent from box office ticket sales, 36 per cent from corporate sponsorships, and the rest from other individual donations. Not surprisingly, the largest number of non-Hong Kong corporate sponsors this year are big mainland Chinese names.

While some may think Chinese companies would only want to sponsor mainland performers, the sponsors’ list shows that the mainland firms have international taste.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust is sponsoring the opening of the festival while China Construction Bank is sponsoring the second night performance of Zurich Ballet’s Anna Karenina. Its peer Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is sponsor of the finale performance by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and its male choir.

Other mainland firms on the sponsors’ list include Everbright, Guotai Junan International, China Resources Group, Citic Capital, Tencent Foundation and Industrial Bank.

The big US investment banks, which previously sponsored many art programmes a decade ago, have disappeared from the list this year. In fact, they were seldom sponsors in recent years, no doubt due to cost cutting after the global financial crisis in 2008.

The same mainland Chinese companies are also sponsoring more sporting events.

Haitong International Securities Group, a subsidiary of the mainland’s biggest stockbroker, was sponsor of the Hong Kong Open Windsurfing Championship held on Sunday.

The company has expanded its sponsorships to “social responsibility” causes and events since it listed in Hong Kong in 1996, according to a filing by the firm to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

This includes donations to the Community Chest of Hong Kong, Oxfam Hong Kong, Orbis Hong Kong, as well as support for art and cultural events over the past decade. The firm also established the Haitong International Charitable Foundation in 2014 to team up with non-profit-making organisations to help elderly homes and others in need.

With more mainland firms trading in Hong Kong, we are likely to see more big Chinese names sponsoring art and sport events in the city.

This article has been updated to reflect The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust is sponsoring the opening night performance of the festival while China Construction Bank is sponsoring the second night performance.

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