Hong Kong’s MTR Corp may be early beneficiary of ‘One Belt, One Road’, chairman says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 11:31am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 May, 2017, 10:44am

MTR Corporation, the operator of railway networks in Hong Kong, may be among the first batch of companies in the city to benefit from the “One Belt, One Road” project, according to its chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang.

Ma told hundreds of attendees at the 10th Asian Financial Forum on Tuesday that there were several belt and road countries that would like to have MTR advisory services for their rail projects.

“I have visited several countries that lie on the route of the One Belt, One Road and they have great interest in building railways or light rail projects. At this stage, it is very preliminary but some countries such as Kazakhstan and Myanmar want to send their people to MTR Academy for training,” Ma said at the forum.

“This shows the belt and road project is very much relevant to Hong Kong companies like MTR. Hong Kong has many companies which are good at port and airport operations, which are the services and products demanded in these belt and road countries,” he said.

Initiated by Beijing in 2013, the belt and road plan is aimed at building railways, ports, airports, roads and other infrastructure projects in 60 countries neighbouring China and in other part of Asia, the Middle East and Europe to boost trade flow and economic growth.

Ma said the city’s banking sector has the experience and capability needed to help many of these infrastructure projects raise funds.

Among the many fund raising projects, he said green bonds would be important as this type of funding was raised for projects that help reduce pollution problems.

Ma said MTR raised US$600 million worth of green bonds last year and the company will continue to issue green bonds in the coming year.

Speaking in the same session of the forum, Hong Kong Financial Services Development Council chairman Laura Cha Shih May-lung warnedthat a trade war would be a threat to Hong Kong and China’s economic growth this year, after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a report.

“The IMF report on Monday increased the economic forecast for the global economy to 3.4 per cent due to some countries having tax reductions and other stimulus measures. But the IMF also warned that US president-elect Donald Trump’s trade protectionist policies may lead to a global trade war. If this happens, it would hurt the economic growth of Hong Kong and China,” she said.

Cha said Hong Kong needs to diversify to develop green finance, fintech and to capture the many business opportunities arising from the belt and road projects.

Ma echoed Cha’s concern over the trade policies of Trump who take office as the US president on Friday. During his election campaign Trump vowed to impose tariffs on Chinese goods imported to the US.

“Donald Trump is a businessman and he changes his mind so often. There is hope that his anti-China trade policies will not happen,” Ma said.