Merchant banks join forces in association

IN a long-awaited move, 14 merchant banks have joined forces to promote and develop corporate finance activities in Hong Kong.

The Corporate Finance Association also hopes to evolve as a self-regulatory body governing the industry's participants, similar to establishments overseas.

William Woods, director of International Securities Consultancy which acts as its secretariat, expected the association to eventually have 45 members covering all those active in the Hong Kong market.

He described the establishment as timely, as the local securities market has become more sophisticated, with more players.

Local securities regulators had suggested a central body for the corporate finance industry with which they could talk, Mr Woods said.

''The merchant banks realised that it's sensible to have this forum,'' said Mr Woods.

The forum would serve as a focal point for discussion by merchant banks over market-related issues and, through it, make presentation to the regulators, he said.

The association would respond to initiatives raised by the Securities and Futures Commission, Hong Kong stock exchange and the Monetary Authority, he said.

It would take a ''pro-active role'' in raising issues with the regulators, he said.

The association has a steering committee which attends to daily affairs and takes up policy and day-to-day market issues with the relevant securities authorities.

The committee has representatives of four members: Anglo Chinese Corporate Finance, Peregrine Capital, Standard Chartered Asia and Wardley Corporate Finance.

Mr Woods said two committee members would retire each year and the vacancies filled by members elected at an annual general meeting.

There are also working groups on specific issues.

He said they were studying the role of sponsors and underwriters in new listings, listing procedures and the timetable for new listings.

They were also looking into promotion of Hong Kong as a centre for listings.

The association would respond to a consultation paper on the strategic planning of the stock exchange over the next five to 10 years.

As the members come from various backgrounds, Mr Woods admitted there ''won't always be unanimity'' in opinion.

But he stressed it would be ''a definite majority view'', as each member would be invited to give advice on corporate affairs.

''There's a common focus - people have general interests in promoting Hong Kong's market,'' he said.

Other founding members include Baring Brothers, Jardine Fleming Securities, China Development Finance, HG Asia, Morgan Grenfell Asia, NM Rothschild, PruAsia DBS, Schroders Asia, Seapower Corporate Finance, Sun Hung Kai International.