Charles Li: Hong Kong market “not a casino”

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The chief executive of the group that owns the Hong Kong stock exchange played down fears about lax regulation on Friday, insisting that the market is “not a casino”.

Mysterious back-door listings, turbulent share price movements and corporate governance issues have buffeted the Hong Kong stock market over the last couple of years and sparked calls for tighter regulation.

But speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong, Charles Li, the chief executive of the HKEX group, was sanguine on the bourse’s prospects. He said new Chinese investors had surged into Hong Kong over recent years because of the “excessive” capital in the mainland.

China has “too much money” and “doesn’t really know what to do with it” he said.

He admitted that these inflows have caused “some interruptions, some issues” but insisted that Hong Kong regulators had the tools to tackle the problems.

Mr Li compared the Hong Kong stock market to a city that is reasonably well-run but has “a few dark alleys and little corners” that ordinary people and the police normally avoid.

However, he added, a surge of “tourists” who don’t know better are now venturing into these less-than-salubrious areas and getting “beaten up by some local gangsters and others”.

The solution is to send in the police and put up some CCTV cameras, he added wryly.

“We all need to relax,” he said. “This is a great market. You don’t want the regulator to solve all your problems. There’s one great way of guaranteeing there’s no problems: you just shut down the market.”

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