Hong Kong leader: Financial hub’s strengths intact despite protests

Protests in Hong Kong escalated in June over a since-withdrawn bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 January 2020

Hong Kong leader: Financial hub’s strengths intact despite protests

  • Protests in Hong Kong escalated in June over a since-withdrawn bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China
  • Carrie Lam confident the Asian financial hub will bridge divisions

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s strengths as a global financial hub have not been undermined by months of pro-democracy protests, the Chinese-ruled city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said on Monday.
Protests in Hong Kong escalated in June over a since-withdrawn bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party. They have since broadened to include demands such as universal suffrage.
Speaking at the opening of a regional financial forum, Lam said the city’s financial system remained stable thanks to lessons learnt since the Asian financial crisis. Lam cited the listing of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. as a boon for other listings by mainland companies.
The city’s “strengths and resilience, just like our financial systems, have not been undermined despite (the fact) that we experienced considerable social unrest and challenges,” Lam said.
She added she was confident the Asian financial hub will bridge divisions, and realize its goals of a reunited community and “flourishing” economy.
Finance Secretary Paul Chan, speaking at the same event, said Hong Kong’s banking system was running smoothly and had ample liquidity despite the city facing “unprecedented” turbulence.
Many protests involved violent clashes between protesters and the police on central streets lined by the city’s tallest towers hosting top finance companies.
Some financial firms have been caught in the middle, with branches of mainland banks repeatedly vandalized as protesters vented their anger at what they perceive as Beijing meddling in the city’s affairs, an accusation denied by Beijing which blames the West for fomenting unrest.
HSBC has also drawn the ire of some protesters who accuse it of being complicit in action by the authorities against activists trying to raise money to support their campaign. HSBC strongly denies any connection.
Hurt by a tariff war between Washington and Beijing, and with protests hurting tourism and retail sales, Hong Kong’s economy has fallen into recession and relies on its finance industry to prevent a deeper downturn.
Chan said the government was considering a more “competitive” tax arrangement to attract private equity funds to the city and further relief measures to prop up the economy, without offering further details.


Swiss bank giant UBS posts best Q3 in a decade despite pandemic

Updated 20 October 2020

Swiss bank giant UBS posts best Q3 in a decade despite pandemic

  • The world’s largest wealth manager saw net profit jump 99 percent year-on-year to $2.5 billion

ZURICH: Swiss banking giant UBS said Tuesday it nearly doubled its net profit in its best third quarter in a decade, the latest in a string of global lenders to report better-than-expected results despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The world’s largest wealth manager saw net profit jump 99 percent year-on-year to $2.5 billion, it said in a statement, handily beating analyst expectations for $1.5 billion.
The rise comes after net profit dropped by 11 percent in the second quarter to June as the firm stepped up provisions for bad loans with the global economy in a tailspin due to the pandemic.
UBS’ profits received a one-off, third-quarter boost from the $631 million sale of a majority stake in its fund platform Fondcenter to Clearstream, a subsidiary of the Deutsche Borse group.
Its operating profit increased 26 percent to $8.9 billion, also surpassing analyst expectations.
CEO Sergio Ermotti said he was proud of the third quarter results, his last at the helm, with ex-ING group chief Ralph Hamers taking over as chief executive officer on November 1.
“UBS has all the options open to write another successful chapter of its history under Ralph’s leadership,” Ermotti said in the statement.
But UBS did not give any estimate of its outlook, due to a “high level of uncertainty.”
“Going forward, the pandemic and political uncertainties may lead to periods of higher market volatility and could affect client activity positively or negatively,” it said in the statement.
Other global banking giants to report surging profits this earnings season include Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup.