Swiss bank UBS yesterday bought into four A-share blue chips on behalf of an overseas client, the first trades under a landmark scheme to broaden foreign access to China's US$503.5 billion stock market. During a press conference in Beijing yesterday, UBS executives bought shares in Shanghai-listed Baoshan Iron & Steel, Shanghai Port Container, Sinotrans Air Transportation Development and Shenzhen-listed telecommunications gear maker ZTE. The trades were the first made under the qualified foreign institutional investor (QFII) scheme announced last year. Under the scheme, foreign institutions are granted direct access to publicly traded yuan-denominated A shares, which were previously reserved for domestic investors. 'Today is an auspicious and historic day in the development of China's capital market,' said UBS Asia chairman Rodney Ward. Most of the 1,250 companies listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen have issued A shares. But until December, foreigners wanting a share of China's rapid economic growth through stock market investments were confined to dozens of overseas-listed mainland firms or the 111 domestically listed and illiquid foreign-currency B-share stocks. Not only does QFII mark another tentative step towards liberalising China's heavily regulated capital account, it promises to help improve corporate governance in a market notorious for its speculative tendencies and cultivate an investment culture focused on business fundamentals. Declining to specify the size of yesterday's buying, UBS head of China equities Nicole Yuen said the four A-share companies were chosen because of their sizable liquidity in tradable shares, reasonable valuations as well as good corporate governance and investor relations records. Baoshan is a unit of China's largest steelmaker, while Sinotrans Air is a subsidiary of Hong Kong's main-board listed Sinotrans, China's largest freight forwarder. A shares of Shanghai Container Port, the most active stock on the Shanghai exchange yesterday by trading turnover, rose 1.18 per cent. Baoshan, another index heavyweight, edged up 0.95 per cent. ZTE was up 2.1, while Sinotrans Air dipped 0.14 per cent.