HONG KONG'S financial landscape is changing as fast as its city-scape now that banks and investors realise that its deep pool of cash is finite. Wharf recently became the first Hong Kong company to gain an international credit rating and one of a handful of rated corporates in the territory. Corporates who fail to follow its example will be ranked behind Wharf - both offshore when they seek cash, and when they issue in Hong Kong, no matter how big their profits are. It is probably no coincidence that two note-issuing banks - Standard Chartered and Hongkong Bank - have opened their books already. The phones at Moody's and Standard and Poor's should start ringing soon. A high-profile blue chip, Wharf has been a heavy borrower lately, raising or planning to raise, almost $12 billion through syndicated loans, bond issues, Rule 144a registrations, yen Samurai bonds and a Hong Kong dollar floating-rate note (FRN) issue. The ratings from Moody's and Standard and Poor's open up the deeper pockets to be found in the United States. They also reassure the Japanese that Wharf's books and operations have been scrutinised and measured against international benchmarks. The alternative to a rating is sharing a crowded domestic market. Mainland companies are raising cash through share offers. Multinationals like General Electric have raised cash through Dragon bonds or straights. Also, property developers are raising cash to fund Hong Kong and mainland developments and infrastructure projects. Thai, Korean and Malaysian banks are raising cash to fund economic development in their own countries. The Mass Transit Railway Corp and the Provisional Airport Authority are raising cash for on-going operations and for the massive Port and Airport Development Scheme. Through the ratings Wharf has for its $1.5 billion FRN, its paper qualifies for access to the liquidity adjustment facility operated by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and as a liquefiable asset. It is more desirable to investors, like banks, than non-qualifying debt.