Guangdong's free-trade zones in dash for cash

Pilot economic zones will soon start raising capital from overseas to fund development

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 4:02am

The battle for foreign capital on the mainland is heating up as Hengqin, Nansha and Qianhai - the three pilot free-trade zones in the Pearl River Delta - press ahead with hundreds of billions of yuan worth of development plans.

Hengqin - an island in southern Zhuhai in the west of the PRD - will "soon" issue 1.5 billion yuan (HK$1.9 billion) of dim sum bonds in Hong Kong and plans to float next year a portfolio of infrastructure and property projects on the Hong Kong stock exchange for about 2 billion yuan, Niu Jing, the director of the administrative committee of the Hengqin New Area, told the South China Morning Post on the sidelines of a seminar yesterday.

Qianhai - reclaimed land in the west of Shenzhen on the east coast of the PRD, plans to put eight to 10 commercial sites up for grabs and expand the offshore yuan business, according to Zhang Bei, the head of the Qianhai development zone.

Despite its relatively longer history in development, Nansha - a seaside district at the heart of the PRD - aimed to attract 400 billion yuan in investments varying from trade, ports, logistics, tourism, education, manufacturing and wealth management in the next four years, said Dong Ke, a member of the standing committee of Nansha District.

"If Guangdong doesn't take the strategy to develop Hengqin, Nansha and Qianhai, the province risks losing its leading position as a top bread-winner to the nation," said Fang Zhou, an assistant chief research officer at the Hong Kong-based One Country Two Systems Research Institute.

The trio were anointed by the State Council as pilot free-trade zones in the five-year plan to 2015. They will serve as models for other regions if they prove a success.

To transform Hengqin from former oyster beds into a tourism, education, creative cultural and Chinese medical hub, Niu said Hengqin would need at least 500 billion yuan of capital in the next few years.

Ian Fok Chun-wan, the chief executive of Fok Ying Tung Group, said the family would keep investing in Nansha, the family's hometown where his late father Fok Ying-tung started investing more than 20 years ago.

Positioning itself as the "Manhattan of the PRD", Qianhai planned to lower the entry barrier to encourage young people overseas to set up business there, Zhang said.