About 350 delegates will discuss what makes mainland companies tick as they look overseas in their quest for capital DIALOGUE AND exchange among players in the global capital markets will be abundant at the conference, which opens today at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and continues until tomorrow. The event, hosted by the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), has its sights set firmly on creating dialogue and an opportunity for 'cross-fertilisation' between members of both institutes and stakeholders in the global capital markets arena. The strong and continued growth of the mainland economy - in the region of 8 per cent to 9 per cent of gross domestic product over the past decade - has presented many opportunities for accountants and business in Hong Kong. It has also increased mainland companies' appetite for capital from overseas jurisdictions at a time when investors from developed countries were seeking investment opportunities with higher returns away from home. 'The booming China market and the eye-catching growth [of the Hong Kong stock market] in terms of market capitalisation is attracting worldwide attention,' said Paul Chan Mo-po, president of the HKICPA. 'The majority of investors in mainland companies are from around the world. This conference is looking at Hong Kong in the context of international global capital markets and their regulatory environments, compliance regimes and corporate governance requirements.' The Hong Kong conference represents an important collaboration between the two accounting bodies, following a partnership agreement signed in 2004. The agreement allows for mutual recognition of both institute's qualifications and provides for joint efforts to market the ICAEW's international financial standards diploma and certificate courses in Hong Kong and the mainland. Mr Chan said he believed there were many more areas where the two bodies could work together. 'The specialisation in the accounting profession is more evident in Britain. The ICAEW has different specialities, such as audit, tax and corporate finance. This is a route the HKICPA will follow in the future. There are a number of initiatives we are going to work on together,' he said. The full-day conference is focused on understanding China's perspective, especially as mainland companies increasingly look overseas in their search for capital. The event follows on from ICAEW conferences in Brussels, London and Washington, and is the fourth in a series of conferences held worldwide over the past year to mark the ICAEW's 125th anniversary. Senior government and regulatory officials, commentators, academics, global investors and Chinese enterprises active in international capital markets will discuss how China's development is affecting global capital markets, not just in Hong Kong but in London, New York and other financial centres. About 350 delegates are expected to attend the event. The conference will begin with an official dinner and reception, with Frederick Ma Si-hang, Hong Kong's Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, as a speaker. The programme comprises keynote speeches and panel discussions covering China's development and its effect on global capital markets. The panel sessions, themed around dialogue for business, investors, accountants and policymakers, will address issues such as the benefits and pitfalls for Chinese companies listing overseas, the opportunities and main concerns of international investors, the accountancy profession's role and the priorities for policymakers. Among the distinguished speakers are Wang Jun, vice-minister, Ministry of Finance; Paul Chow, chief executive, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing; Paul Boyle, chief executive, Financial Reporting Council (Britain); and Sir C. K. Chow, chief executive of the MTR Corporation. 'This conference will provide a forum to bring all these stakeholders together to provide a wide spectrum of views and also allow cross-fertilisation from a geographical perspective as well as from different stakeholders' perspectives,' said Winnie Cheung, HKICPA chief executive. 'Accountants play a major role in the global capital markets. They act as financial advisers, reporting accountants, auditors and chief financial officers,' she said. 'They carry many different roles in parts of the global market development and they work with other stakeholders, such as bankers, lawyers, international investors, analysts and company directors and management as well as market regulators. 'Accountants are the key success ingredient in the capital markets mechanism. They bring everything together.' From the ICAEW's viewpoint, the conference will offer its member accountants and other professionals attending an opportunity to meet and engage in business dialogue. The British chartered body, which acts primarily in the public interest, has about 1,600 members in Hong Kong and China, many of whom are also members of the HKICPA. Eric Anstee, the ICAEW's chief executive, said he hoped the conference, as well as encouraging business dialogue, would give managers representing Chinese companies a chance to learn more about raising capital in overseas markets. 'There are particular regulatory issues as companies from countries like China and Russia try to access foreign capital in markets like Hong Kong, London and New York,' he said. 'That brings not just issues with access to capital, but also whether these companies are appropriate vehicles for foreign investors to access. 'It's about the requirements to bring a company to these markets, to raise capital and, once they are listed, maintain their regulatory compliance on an ongoing basis,' Mr Anstee said.