Nervous HK millionaires are moving their cash to Singapore

  • Business
  • Tuesday, 16 Jul 2019

The government sees the economy expanding 1.5%-2.5% this year, compared with 3.1% in 2018.

SINGAPORE: Private bankers are being flooded with inquiries from investors in Hong Kong who are worried about the long term effects of the political crisis in the Chinese city.

While the Hong Kong government has shelved the controversial law that sparked the latest round of unrest - one that would have allowed criminal suspects to be transferred to the mainland for trial - a new tier of wealthy investors are setting up ways to move their money out of the former British colony more quickly, bankers and wealth managers said.

A major Asian wealth manager said it has received a large flow of new money in Singapore from Hong Kong over recent weeks, requesting not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

One Hong Kong private banker said the majority of the new queries he receives aren’t coming from the super-rich, most of whom already have alternative destinations for their money, but from individuals with assets in the US$10mil to US$20mil range.

“Even for those who think the protests will blow over, will die down, their conversations have become: change is coming, how are we planning?” said Clifford Ng, a managing partner at the Zhong Lun Law Firm in Hong Kong who specializes in advising rich clients on cross-border transactions and investments.

The extradition fight reinforced concerns among Hong Kong investors and democracy advocates alike that the Beijing-backed government is eroding the legal wall separating the local judicial system from the mainland’s.

The proposal was the latest of several such incidents, including the disappearance of financier Xiao Jianhua, who was abducted from Hong Kong by Chinese agents in 2017 and hasn’t resurfaced since.

Hong Kong police arrested more than 40 people after attempts to clear the remnants of a mass anti-government march resulted in clashes with demonstrators on Sunday.

Ten officers were injured, including at least one who lost a finger, Police Commissioner Stephen Lo said.

Twenty-two demonstrators were also hurt, RTHK reported, citing the city’s hospital authority.

The recent demonstrations are the latest trigger in a long process of Chinese money flowing to Singapore, London, New York and other centers outside Beijing’s reach.

Singapore’s US$2.4 trillion asset management industry has been one of the main beneficiaries because of advantages such as political stability, language and rapid air connections with China.

With the accelerating investor interest in Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore asked the country’s financial institutions not to deprecate Hong Kong publicly because of the demonstrations, according to people familiar with the matter.

The MAS wants to avoid the perception that Singapore is benefiting from Hong Kong’s misfortunes, they said. — Bloomberg

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