If rhetoric was a commodity (and in a perverse way it is), the HKEX/LME Asia Week in Hong Kong this week would have the market cornered.
Although some reporters have managed to squeeze some words out (more likely to meet deadlines than to report major stories), mostly the sessions today have been long on platitudes and aspirations, with little in the way of substance. Charles Li declared at the start of his speech that he would be candid and honest, but when it came to how HKEX would compete with Shanghai, there was not a lot of firm planning. Even his admission that HK can’t quickly develop a domestic warehousing structure (where could you possibly put a new warehouse on this crowded, hilly island?) was deflected by a promise that they would solve the problem eventually.
To be fair to Mr Li, for that part of his speech about competing with Shanghai, he gave it in Mandarin, and the translators did a pretty poor job of keeping up with him.
The lunchtime panel consisted of 4 speakers and had the heading of”How can Asian exchanges strengthen cooperation to better serve Asia’s real economy?” That was the topic, but nobody told the moderator or the speakers. Most speakers sought to praise HKEX for their brilliance in buying LME, and spoke on how they could cooperate to develop greater innovation and success in China. But the 4 speakers were all Chinese, with no other “Asian Exchange” represented, and nobody on the panel who could rightfully claim to be able to speak about better serving Asia’s real economy. Almost none of the answers were even about serving China’s real economy, with perhaps the only bright spot being one speaker’s admission that China’s regulators have some pretty important hurdles and challenges to meet. But that wasn’t stopping China’s exchanges (Dalian, Zhengzhou and presumably HKEX) pressing Beijing to free up the market for them.
Perhaps the brightest point of the day’s proceedings to date was the morning panel with Dr Ma jun from Deutsche Bank and Daniel Smith from SCB admitting that in the short term, China is in for a rough ride. Both men were bullish about China in the medium to long term, in spite of the short term pain.
The second panel was disappointing, as it consisted of 8 people who had almost no time each to speak their mind in the 50 minutes allotted (the moderator ate up a bit of the time with introductory comments, plus of course each question had to be put before it could be answered). As it was, the best speaker on the panel was Tong Li from BOCI, but she didn’t get to speak until towards the end of the session.
The moderator in this case was Bonnie Liu, previously an analyst with Macquarie Bank. Bonnie joined HKEX only 3 weeks ago, and has a tough job in front of her, as Vice President, Asia Commodities for HKEX, but goes into the job with an excellent reputation amongst her peers in the base metals world inside and outside China.