* To extend existing Hong Kong-Shanghai link
* China’s A-shares market now open to global investors
* Follows delay of more than a year (Adds East Capital comment, background, bullet points)
By Michelle Price
HONG KONG, Nov 25 (Reuters) - A long-awaited stock trading link between the Hong Kong and Shenzhen exchanges will go live on Dec. 5, regulators said on Friday, further opening up China’s capital markets to global investors and giving them access to some of its fastest-growing companies.
The launch will extend an existing trading link between Hong Kong and Shanghai, allowing foreign investors to trade Shenzhen stocks, one of the world’s busiest and most tech-focused exchanges, from Hong Kong. Domestic Chinese investors, meanwhile, will be able to trade an expanded range of Hong Kong stocks via the Shenzhen and Shanghai exchanges.
“The necessary trading and clearing rules and other relevant rules, the daily quota mechanism and other regulatory and operational arrangements have been finalised,” the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission said in a statement.
“The stock exchanges and the clearing houses have completed a series of market rehearsals with participants in both markets and reported that systems are ready. Trading will commence on 5 December 2016.”
The regulators said they had also a memorandum of understanding on regulatory and enforcement cooperation for the cross-border trading link.
The Shenzhen Connect scheme had been expected to go live more than a year ago, but was put on hold after last year’s market crash, which saw stock prices fall by around 40 percent and a raft of interventionist measures unleashed to prop up markets.
China announced the launch of the scheme in August.
“The programme opens up a new chapter of free access to a highly liquid market and investors can benefit from the vast investment opportunities in the environmental, IT, consumer discretionary and healthcare sectors, all of which are at the heart of the transformation of the Chinese economy and have been delivering strong earnings growth,” said Karine Hirn, partner at East Capital.
With more than 1,800 listed companies that have a combined market capitalization of $3.3 trillion, the Shenzhen stock market is viewed by analysts and fund managers as a major long-term investment opportunity - although sky high valuations and wild swings in Chinese stocks are likely to make some investors wary initially.
“I don’t think it is going to be meaningful in the short term in terms of price moves, but I do think that in terms of capital market reforms it is very positive,” Belinda Boa, Head of Active Investments for Asia Pacific at BlackRock, told Reuters in an interview on Monday. “The opportunity in terms of what you can invest in is now much bigger than with Shanghai.”
The extension of the link to Shenzhen will also see an aggregate quota cap on investment in both directions across the border scrapped, and a new raft of smaller Hong Kong stocks available to domestic Chinese investors.
The rule changes are expected to lead to dramatic inflows into Hong Kong, as domestic investors seek ways to diversify their assets out of a weakening yuan.
“We believe this new link could be a re-rating catalyst for small-cap stocks in Hong Kong,” portfolio managers at Matthews Asia wrote in a note on Friday.
The market is still awaiting clarification by the Chinese regulators on the capital gains tax treatment of foreign purchases of Shenzhen stocks, although Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing CEO Charles Li said in August he expected them to be exempt from tax, in line with the current rules for Hong Kong Shanghai Connect. (Additional reporting by Simon Jessop; Editing by Mark Potter, Greg Mahlich)