Exchange in hi-tech link-up

THE Shanghai Securities Exchange is advancing with ambitious plans to link up with 15 domestic trading centres in the first part of the year, as well as plugging into Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

The plan is based on a high-technology satellite and fibre-optic link and is expected to give a major boost to turnover in stocks quoted on the exchange.

The president of the Shanghai exchange, Wei Wenyuan, said the high-technology link-up was one of the major efforts being mounted by the exchange this year.

The fibre-optic network, which would connect dealing centres in China with the Shanghai ''mother'' exchange, was already in place, he said, adding that the major work on planning the installation had been undertaken by the exchange itself.

When on-line the new network will mean that dealers in China will be able to deal directly with Shanghai on behalf of local clients.

Already four cities have been wired up - Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Shenyang and Chengdu. Within a month a further three will be open for business - Haikou, Qingdao and Changsha.

By the end of the first half of the year, if all goes according to Mr Wei's plans, all 15 cities will be on the network.

The exchange is authorising brokers, including subsidiaries of Shanghai firms, to be able to use the system and gather clients from their new centres.

About 1,300 individual licences to trade are expected to be issued, which would more than double the existing number of authorised brokers dealing with Shanghai.

The addition of such a large number of dealers, and the convenience to clients of having a local Shanghai dealing centre, is expected to be a major boost for trading on the exchange.

So far this year, the dull performance of the market has meant a relatively quiet time for Shanghai stocks.

Despite the anticipated lack of technical problems in the satellite and cable links, there could still be administrative hurdles to overcome in Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

If the new system is seen as the forerunner of a national Chinese stock exchange, it is possible that the industry watchdog, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, might become concerned.

Despite much discussion about a single, nationwide stock market in China, the authorities in Beijing appear to be in favour of allowing the two centres to develop separately.

Subjects that might require clarification could include investor protection and issues such as commissions.

However, Mr Wei was confident that the fibre-optic communications link with Shenzhen would be completed within one or two months and he said the idea was for Chinese stock exchanges to be linked into one system.

The Hong Kong link could be in place within three months, but Mr Wei said there could be various regulatory hurdles to clear before it could go live.

The planned explosion of dealing centres is seen as another example of Shanghai's innovatory ambitions.

It could also relieve some of the pressure on space inside Shanghai's stock exchange, which has already outgrown its existing building. A new purpose-built exchange is planned for Pudong, where Shanghai is building a major financial centre, and this could be open by 1995, although the existing hall is expected to be retained.

Meanwhile, Mr Wei believes that so long as the Shanghai exchange can maintain a steady pace of development, it could overcome the problems that may affect the growth of the market, such as inflation and financial reforms.