Xinhua Insight: Europe’s offshore yuan hubs carve out different roles

by Xinhua writer Lyu Dong

BEIJING, Sept. 23 (Greenpost) — The rise of several European offshore hubs for the Chinese currency, the renminbi or yuan, has led each to tap their respective strengths to help the “redback” realize its global ambitions.

China’s push for the globalization of its currency has spurred financial centers worldwide to become offshore yuan hubs. In Europe, London, Frankfurt and Luxembourg are among the financial centers in the region vying to help the yuan gain greater acceptance on the continent.

These European financial centers can leverage their unique strengths to help the yuan achieve global use in areas such as foreign exchange trading, settlement and investment, according to Nicolas Mackel, CEO of Luxembourg for Finance, an agency for financial sector development. Mackel is heading an 80-person delegation to visit Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen this week to promote Luxembourg as an offshore hub for the yuan.

“Every financial center is specialized in certain areas,” Mackel said.

Luxembourg is making the case that its status as Europe’s asset management hub positions it as an ideal choice for housing yuan-denominated investments, such as funds invested in China’s onshore capital markets and yuan-denominated dim-sum bonds listed on its exchange.

“London is the world’s capital for foreign exchange operation and clearly will also be the case for renminbi trading. Frankfurt, the financial center of Germany, China’s most important trading partner in Europe, will serve as the trade settlement [center] for Renminbi. Luxembourg is one of the world’s leaders for investment funds and international bond listings and the European continental hub for Chinese banks,” Mackel said on Monday.

The Chinese yuan already ranks as the world’s fifth most used currency in payment and second in trade financing, according to the SWIFT. Yet China also wants it to be used among investors and expects more central banks to hold the yuan as reserves.

With nearly 3.5 trillion euro in assets under management, Luxembourg has approved more than 20 mutual funds to invest in China’s stock market using the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect launched in November. However, yuan-denominated funds domiciled in Luxembourg remain few, currently worth 296 billion yuan.

In April, China granted the Grand Duchy a 50-billion-yuan RQFII quota, which allows foreign institutional investors to invest in China’s onshore capital market using the yuan.

China’s five largest state-owned lenders and China Merchants Bank have all established their European headquarters in Luxembourg, and five out of six Chinese asset managers who opted to launch investment funds in Europe via Hong Kong subsidiaries have chosen the country as a domicile for their funds.

China’s regulators allow foreign participation in the country’s capital markets through the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors (QFII) scheme, RQFII and a program linking stock exchanges in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

But some foreign institutional investors argue that they face liquidity constraints and a lack of flexibility in investment quota allocation under these schemes. MSCI also cited these among reasons behind its decision to postpone the inclusion of China-listed shares in its widely tracked stock indices in June.

George Osborne, British Chancellor of the Exchequer, also announced this week during his trip to China a feasibility study into linking the London and Shanghai stock markets, potentially adding a new channel for offshore investors to expand their exposure to yuan-denominated securities.

Camille Thommes, director general of the Association of the Luxembourg Fund Industry, told Xinhua that the Luxembourg delegation was scheduled for meetings with China’s securities watchdog, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Monday and Tuesday to discuss easing entry for offshore investors to China’s onshore capital market.

He added that interest in expanding exposure to Chinese securities is still high among Luxembourg-domiciled funds despite the volatilities in China’s stock market and the revaluation of the Chinese currency.

“I think these will not affect the fundamental interest in investing in the Chinese capital markets. There is still strong demand from investors who take long-term and positive views on Asian capital markets, specifically China,” Thommes said.

A survey of more than 500 Hong Kong-based investors conducted by Standard Chartered Bank between Aug. 14 to 22, when both China’s stock market and its currency underwent major corrections, also found that more than 70 percent of respondents are still willing to hold and even increase their holdings of yuan-denominated assets.

“Although volatility is certainly an aspect which has to be properly monitored, institutional investors in Europe or the U.S. taking a long term view will have to keep or even increase the weighting of China-related securities in their portfolio,” said Stephane Karolczuk, a lawyer with law firm Arendt & Medernach, which has advised the first Luxembourg mutual fund to use the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect in investing in Shanghai-traded stocks.

“QFII, RQFII and stock connect will remain very relevant to them.” Karolczuk said.

In addition to housing funds invested in China, Luxembourg’s stock exchange is also the largest listing market for yuan-denominated bonds in Europe and ranks third globally after Hong Kong and Singapore.

So far, issuers of yuan-denominated debts on the exchange are mostly multinational corporations seeking to raise offshore yuan to fund their operations in China, while Chinese issuers are mostly financial institutions. At 51.2 percent, European issuers account for the largest share of issuers that raise yuan at the exchange.

The advantage of listing yuan bonds in Luxembourg, according to Robert Scharfe, CEO of the Luxembourg Stock Exchange, is that its information transparency is unrivalled among dim-sum bond markets globally. Enditem

China Headlines: China initiates new round of reform and opening up

BEIJING, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) — Trying to restart a slowing economic growth, China’s President Xi Jinping has decided to deepen the reform and open up the country wider to the outside world.

“China will stay strongly committed to deepening its reform on all fronts while opening still wider to the outside world,” Xi told the Wall Street Journal in a written interview before he departed for an official state visit to the United States on Tuesday.

This was the second time in a week that the president reassured the market, that the policies which brought wealth and prosperity to China’s people will continue, deeper and wider.

Last week, Xi told a room of former U.S. officials and business leaders that China is fully committed to reform and opening up and he hoped they would actively support it.

While China and the United States are expecting much from Xi’s visit, China-Britain cooperation has born fruit. On Monday, the two countries reached 53 agreements on nuclear energy, high-speed railway, infrastructure among many others at the 7th China-Britain Economic and Financial Dialogue in Beijing.

Notably, China suggested opening up its closely controlled financial market, allowing British institutional investors to trade securities in China, and mulling a mechanism to connect the Shanghai and London exchanges.

Premier Li Keqiang told visiting British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne that China is ready to cooperate in an open and inclusive manner.

These agreements indicated that opening up has reached levels unthinkable decades ago.

Since the incumbent central leadership was formed in late 2012, China has introduced many new measures to foreign investment and trade.

China is actively seeking a bigger say in international affairs, by participating in and increasingly initiating, global cooperation.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road initiative are among China’s efforts to supplement the existing international order and overhaul global governance.

The phrase “opening up” frequently appears in policy statements and headlines at a time when China needs to find new sources of growth.

During a tumultuous summer, Chinese stocks were hit by repeated plunges and most of economic indicators were soft. Worries arose about whether China can sustain medium-to-high speed growth. Reform and opening up is China’s solution. Last week, Xi said opening up and reform will add new impetus and vitality to the economy and provide new room for growth.

“China should be committed to attracting foreign investment and expertise, and improve opening-up policies,” he said, addressing the 16th Meeting of the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform.

“The government will not change its policy toward foreign investment, and will protect the lawful interests of foreign-funded companies and provide better services for them,” said a statement released after the meeting.

China promised to make a national “negative list” by 2018, of sectors which are not fully open to all market entities, both domestic and overseas. Border areas will explore new models of cross-border cooperation and new mechanisms for regional growth.

More state-controlled sectors will be opened to private investors and it will be easier for foreigners to apply for permanent residence permits.

China is becoming more interdependent on and interrelated to the world economy, said John Thornton, co-chair of Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution.

Regional and global cooperation and policy coordination can yield results satisfactory to all, he said.

“China has been on a course of reform and opening up for almost 40 years. That trend will continue,” said Thornton. Enditem


China Focus: China beefs up Food Safety Law

GUANGZHOU, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) — China is preparing a tougher Food Safety Law to come into effect on Oct. 1, said a senior official with China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) on Tuesday.

Guo Wenqi made the remark at a seminar on food safety and rule of law in Guangzhou, capital city of south China’s Guangdong Province.

In April, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s top legislature, adopted an amendment to the 2009 Food Safety Law with the heaviest civil, administrative and criminal penalties yet for offenders and their supervisors.

According to Guo Xiaoguang, head of CFDA Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, the CFDA has been working with a dozen agencies, including financial institutions, taxation and fiscal departments, on dealing with serious food safety violators.

Enterprises that violate the revised law may face restrictions on loans, taxation, bidding and land use. The CFDA will also provide bigger rewards to whistleblowers.

Hua Jingfeng, deputy head of Public Order Administration at the Ministry of Public Security said, “We encourage tip-offs from the public and food industry associations.”

He said the ministry wants trained police specialized in food crime and so far 21 provincial public security departments have set up food safety teams.

Guan Yingshi from the SPC said people’s courts are taking measures to promote public awareness of food safety law. For example, trials of some notorious food crimes will be on live broadcast.

The Supreme People’s Procuratorate will take action over neglect of duty in food production as well as safety supervision.

“By analyzing the underlying causes of the cases through investigations and trials and drawing lesson from them, the SPP will be able to give advice and help businesses set up regulations and fix loopholes,” said Huo Yapeng of the SPP. Enditem



Chinese media fund invests in virtual reality

SHANGHAI, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) — Media and entertainment investment fund China Media Capital (CMC), together with industry players including Disney, have invested 65 million U.S. dollars in Jaunt, a company pioneering cinematic virtual reality (VR).

The deal will give Jaunt resources to create more content and innovate in VR filmmaking, said CMC in a statement on Tuesday.

The series C round of funding will greatly expand Jaunt’s global reach, helping make VR the next mainstream content medium, it added.

There is much room for VR technology to be applied in film, television, games, sports, and mobile media, according to the statement.

In recent years, advances in technology and mobile devices have made fully-immersive VR possible and accessible to the masses.

CMC was founded in 2010 as China’s first private equity fund for financing media companies, with an initial fund of 2 billion yuan (314 million U.S. dollars). Enditem


China gains contract on feasibility study for Indian high-speed railway

BEIJING, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) — A consortium of Chinese and Indian companies will conduct a feasibility study for a high-speed railroad linking New Delhi and Mumbai, China Railway Corporation (CRC) said on Wednesday.

The Third Railway Survey and Design Institute Group Corporation, a subsidiary of CRC, will work with Indian firms, dispatching rail experts to initiate the study for the 1,200-km railway, CRC said.

India has invited global tenders for three high-speed rails, including the New Delhi-Mumbai railway, in December and attracted 12 consortiums from 7 countries bidding for the contracts.

CRC said China’s railway technology is reliable and adaptive and has lower price/performance ratio.

China now has around 17,000 km of fast tracks, accounting for more than 60 percent of the world’s total. Enditem

China launches new climate prediction prototype

BEIJING, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) — A numerical simulation prototype system that could one day help predict natural disasters debuted in Beijing on Wednesday, the first of its kind to be made by China.

The current iteration can be used by Chinese scientists to support research into short-term climate prediction, and dust and haze control.

The high-performance prototype, which was developed under the lead of the Institute Atmospheric Physics with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), is capable of producing a numerical simulation of Earth, and features a support framework and visualization system.

Zhang Minghua, researcher with the institute, said that the prototype system applies features and experience gained from the Earth system model version 1.0, which is used to predict evolution of atmosphere, ocean current, land surface process and ecology.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, in March 2013 urged the scientific community to develop “a numerical simulator of the Earth system.”

This prototype system is the first step toward a full simulator, according to the CAS.

Climate and eco-system changes have become a global scientific problem.

According to statistics with China Meteorological Administration, some 70 percent of all natural disasters are directly related to climate conditions. About 400 million people are affected annually by major climate disasters in China. Enditem


China-France to increase nuclear fuel recycling

BEIJING, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) — The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said on Wednesday that it is choosing a site for a Sino-France nuclear power project featuring mass nuclear fuel recycling.

The construction by the CNNC and the France-based Areva is expected to start in 2020 and finish in 2030.

Nuclear recycling refers reprocessing materials which has already been used and recovering unused uranium and plutonium.

The project will reprocess 800 tonnes of materials from domestic nuclear power stations.

The project will also store the spent fuel, manage nuclear power station discharges and solidify liquid waste via vitrification to make safe, clean nuclear power.

It is estimated that spent fuel produced by China’s pressurized water reactors will add up to 23,500 tonnes by 2030.

Yang Changli, vice general manager of the CNNC, said that the project will ease the pressure of storing spent fuel around 2030, improve safety of spent fuel administration and speed up reactor development. Enditem

China to champion eco-vehicles with favorable policies

BEIJING, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) — China has further proved it is committed to cutting harmful emissions with a slew of measures to support electric vehicles, according to a State Council statement on Wednesday.

To promote growth of the burgeoning sector, more charging stations and inter-city fast-charge stations should be built, according to the statement released after a State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.

New residential complexes should ensure that all parking lots have charging facilities or space should be left for such facilities, while no less than 10 percent of parking lots in large public buildings or public car lots should have charging facilities, the statement said.

The government said it would welcome private investment in the project, it said.

China will provide tax and land support, allow privately-owned parks to collect fees and support favorable financing options for construction projects, according to the statement.

The new energy vehicle sector in China has seen explosive growth in the past two years, thanks to subsidies and tax cuts.

In the first eight months of this year, sales of new energy vehicles surged 270 percent to 108,654 vehicles, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Enditem


China signs deal to buy 300 Boeing aircraft

SEATTLE, United States, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) — A group of Chinese companies signed here Tuesday a deal with U.S. plane maker Boeing to buy 300 Boeing aircraft.

The deal, signed by China Aviation Supplies Holding Company, ICBC Financial Leasing Co., Ltd., and China Development Bank Leasing with Boeing, was reached during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the United States which was kicked off on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd. also signed a cooperative document with Boeing to build a 737 aircraft completion center in China.

Earlier media reports, citing Boeing sources, said this will be the company’s first non-U.S. airliner plant, tasked with the completion and handover of single-aisle 737 jets to customers.

Chinese sources told Xinhua that the project, in the form of a mutually-funded joint venture, signifies that China-U.S. cooperation in aviation has reached a higher level.

It will also upgrade relevant Chinese enterprises as Boeing’s tier-one suppliers, the sources said.

Also on Tuesday, the National Development and Reform Commission of China inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. plane maker on the promotion of comprehensive strategic cooperation in the civil aviation industry.

According to the MOU, in the next five years till 2020, the two sides will enhance industrial cooperation, expand scale of production, jointly develop “green aviation technologies,” and develop world-class air transportation systems together.

In addition, Boeing has agreed to authorize the Aviation Industry Corporation of China to increase its production of Boeing 747-8 plane parts.

With industry experts predicting continued rapid growth through 2020 for China’s air transportation market, Boeing is vying against other major aircraft manufacturers such as the Europe-based Airbus Group for a bigger share of the Chinese orders.

The visiting Chinese president, who has a very tight schedule for his stay in Seattle before heading to Washington D.C., will tour Boeing’s largest factory in Everett on Wednesday. Enditem