Legislator Christopher Cheung Wah-fung issues call for longer HKEx lunch break

New lawmaker for the industry cites need for more time for meetings to boost business

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 September, 2012, 2:38am

Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, the newly elected legislator representing stockbrokers, has urged the Hong Kong stock exchange (HKEx) to restore the 90-minute lunch break formerly taken by the market.

In March, the exchange cut the market lunch break to one hour. This followed changes last year that led to the market opening half an hour earlier and the then two-hour lunch break being cut back to 90 minutes. The changes resulted in the market staying open for 5½ hours trading instead of four in a bid to match international practice.

Until the changes, Hong Kong had the shortest trading hours of any advanced market, while markets such as those in the United States, Britain and Australia had entirely done away with lunch breaks.

"The stock exchange wanted to follow international practice and neglected the needs of local brokers," Cheung said.

"The lunch break is not only for a meal. It provides time for brokers to discuss matters with their clients and to collect orders for the afternoon trades."

He said the extended trading hours had not increased turnover. On the contrary, turnover dropped 28 per cent in the first eight months of this year, and many brokers are struggling.

"The exchange should extend lunch back to one hour and 30 minutes to allow brokers to have more time to meet clients to increase business. This may rather increase the turnover," he said.

The new trading hours did bring Hong Kong closer into line with trading on mainland markets, but Cheung said there was not much benefit to be gained from the change.

But Hong Kong fund managers disagreed.

Sam Kim, the head of global trading for Asia-Pacific at BlackRock, welcomed the extension of trading hours.

"As BlackRock continues to grow in the Asia-Pacific region. We believe our clients benefit from our being able to execute transactions across the regional markets within a wider time-frame over the course of a business day," Kim said.

"This allows us to better control the risks of investing across multiple countries. This is an important factor given our fiduciary responsibility to clients."