April 2010

Quarterly Issue No: 2/2010


This Newsletter is distributed quarterly, free-of-charge, to clients of International Business Center (IBC), and to other parties that have requested it. It is essentially newsworthy items regarding trade in Hong Kong and China, as well as IBC specific news.


News from IBC (IBC Online Services launched in Hong Kong, etc.)
Back to Business
Profits Surge for China's Listed In 2009
Gold Purchases Ruled Out To Diversify Forex Reserves
Here Comes the Chinese Bride
Fast-tracked Wine



Hong Kong Holidays

Public holidays this quarter are:

02 AprilGood Friday
03 AprilThe day following Good Friday
05 AprilEaster Monday
06 AprilThe day following Ching Ming Festival
01 MayLabour Day
21 MayBuddha’s Birthday
16 JuneTuen Ng Festival


IBC Announcement

  • In February, we had a very meaningful trip to Sichuan where we visited the victims of 5.12 earthquake. We held a two-day seminar. The seminar was conducted by a Malaysian NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) professional instructor who voluntarily came and led the event. The main purpose of the seminar was to lead the disables to live and think in a positive way after the disaster they had experienced. By taking that opportunity, we did a lot of sharing with the victims that we have learnt a lot from them too.

  • Our new websites, IBC Group Limited (www.ibc-groupltd.com) and IBC Immigration Consulting Limited (www.ibc-immigration.com) have just been launched.
  • In March IBC Online Services Limited soft-launched a new service for data backup and disaster recovery targeted for SME’s and mid size Corporations. Existing IBC clients will be entitled to a 30 day free trial; and a 20% discount if they subscribe before May 31st 2010. Just go to www.ibconline.com.hk  for detailed service information and immediate access to the free trial. Please also see the attached eDM that has been issue recently by our marketing partner Tradelink Electronic Services Ltd.
  • Andy Chan will take two weeks leave for his honeymoon from 19th to 30th April 2010. We hope that he will be back to work on 3rd May 2010!
  • As usual, Teresa will have various business trips in the coming quarter.

Trade shows in Hong Kong in 1st quarter 2010

- Global Sources Electronic & Components China Sourcing Fair12-15 April 2010
- Global Sources Security Products China Sourcing Fair12-15 April 2010
- HKTDC Hong Kong Electronic Fair (Spring Edition)13-16 April 2010
- HKTDC Hong Kong International ICT Expo13-16 April 2010
- HKTDC Hong Kong International Lighting Fair (Spring Edition)13-16 April 2010
- Global Sources Home Products China Sourcing Fair 20-23 April 2010
- Global Sources Baby & Children’s China Sourcing Fair20-23 April 2010
- Global Sources Gifts & Premiums China Sourcing Fair 20-23 April 2010
- Global Sources Fashion Accessories China Sourcing Fair 20-23 April 2010
- Global Sources Underwear & Swimwear China Sourcing Fair 20-23 April 2010
- HKTDC Hong Kong International Home Textiles Fair  20-23 April 2010
- HKTDC Hong Kong Houseware Fair 20-23 April 2010
- HKTDC Hong Kong Gifts & Premiums Fair27-30 April 2010
- HKTDC Hong Kong International Printing & Packaging Fair 27-30 April 2010


Back to Business

Hong Kong’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are leading a rebound in business optimism in Asia, according to the latest HSBC Small Business Confidence Monitor.

The survey – the largest to date – shows confidence among Hong Kong SMEs climbed 25 points in the fourth quarter last year, the strongest increase in Asia, as the region bounces back from the financial crisis of late 2008. 

Around the world, a growing number of small businesses are bullish about the first half of this year. Many are signaling increasing capital investment and recruitment for the first time since the financial crisis. 

The sentiment expressed in the latest HSBC Small Business Confidence Monitor, which captures the views of more than 6,000 SMEs across 20 markets in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North America and Latin America, is also confirmed in a new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit. That report found Asia’s SMEs are well placed for regional recovery. Times are tough, but Asian SMEs are even tougher, said David Line, editor of the report. “SMEs are the entrepreneurial lifeblood of the Asian economies, and those that have shown the toughness and flexibility to survive the financial crisis may well be tomorrow’s corporate stars.” 

The HSBC Small Business Confidence Monitor, conducted in October and November 2009 by research agency TNS for HSBC Commercial Banking, gauges the six-month outlook of SMEs on local economic growth, capital investment plans and recruitment. 

Banking giant HSBC has found that Hong Kong SMEs are the most optimistic in Asia

On a High

Sandy Flockhart, HSBC Chairman Personal and Commercial Banking, said the results show small business confidence is back to pre-financial crisis levels. “Not only are SMEs confident that their local economies will strengthen, they are ready to invest again in their own operations and people.” 

The Asia index rose from 107 in the second quarter of 2009 to 122 in the fourth quarter. Hong Kong’s business confidence climbed 25 points from 83 to 108, the biggest index rise among the Asia economies in the survey, placing it back in positive territory. Vietnam remained at the top, with an index of 160, followed by India (132), the Chinese mainland (124) and Singapore (117). 

The SME indices tracked by HSBC globally show a positive outlook, with the Middle East at 125, Latin America at 118, the United States and Canada at 107 and the United Kingdom at 101. France is just below neutral, at 94. But emerging markets in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Eastern Europe are significantly more optimistic than the developed markets of the US, Canada, the UK and France, with an index of 121 versus 106. 

In Hong Kong, 84 per cent of SMEs say their business prospects look stable or better for the first half of 2010, with 73 per cent expecting local GDP to remain stable in the next six months. Fifteen per cent expect GDP to increase, and only 12 per cent expect growth to slow, a 33 per cent improvement over the SME economic outlook in the second quarter of 2009. 

Nearly one in three Hong Kong SMEs are preparing to invest in their own businesses this year. Apart from increased capital expenditure, many are starting to hire again.

Sandy Flockhart, HSBC Chairman, Personal and Commercial Banking

Characteristic Resilience

Mr Flockhart said this sentiment underscores the remarkable resilience of Hong Kong SMEs. “The sector has been through the Asian crisis, SARS and the recent global financial crisis, proving its adaptability to challenging market conditions. As a whole, he says, Asia weathered the financial crisis relatively well. “Led by the Chinese mainland, Asia's economies have entered a sustained growth cycle, and Hong Kong's business climate is positive as a result.”

The British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong has also seen a significant improvement in business confidence. The results of its latest survey, carried out by TNS, show member optimism for the coming year increasing from 40 per cent at the end of 2008 to 78 per cent at the end of 2009.

The survey reflected a dramatic increase in the mid-term outlook, with 92 per cent expressing confidence in the coming two years, 94 per cent optimistic about the coming three years and 87 per cent showing confidence over five years.

Similarly, 95 per cent of respondents continue to be very satisfied or satisfied with the Hong Kong business environment, according to Christopher Hammerbeck, Executive Director of the British Chamber of Commerce.

“It seems to be the general ease of doing business in Hong Kong that continues to make it such a dynamic centre for business activities with geographical location, taxation, communications network, free port status, infrastructure and public safety and security rating top of the list of areas that create highest satisfaction.

“There is also a perception that Hong Kong’s competitiveness in terms of the costs of doing business has seen some improvement, with issues such as inflation, executive and staff remuneration, availability of low cost labour, commercial rents and residential rents seeing significant increases in satisfaction.”

He described the emerging optimism as very encouraging after “an extraordinarily difficult year for business.”

“Of course, there are still areas to be addressed, particularly in terms of providing the right support to SMEs in today’s market, but overall, Hong Kong continues to be seen as a unique business environment with much to recommend it.” 

Christopher Hammerbeck, Executive Director, British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong 

Investing in Hong Kong

Despite recent economic challenges, 265 overseas, mainland and Taiwanese companies set up or expanded their businesses in Hong Kong in 2009, with the assistance of InvestHK. A record for the government’s investment promotion arm, it signified investors’ strong vote of confidence in Hong Kong, despite the global economic environment.

The Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America accounted for 43 per cent, 35 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively, of those investing in Hong Kong, with the mainland the single largest market. The top three performing sectors were business and professional services, including education services and design; technology, including renewable energy; and special projects, which includes environmental technology and the wine sector.
Simon Galpin, Director-General of Investment Promotion at Invest HK, charts the growth of inward investors choosing Hong Kong for business expansion

Simon Galpin, Director-General of Investment Promotion at InvestHK, conceded that it was a challenging year, but the positive results demonstrated that Hong Kong remains a preferred base in Asia for business expansion.

“In these times of economic uncertainty, the enduring advantages of Hong Kong, such as its rule of law, low and simple taxes, level playing field, free economy, world-class communications and transportation infrastructure, and available talent pool, have become increasingly important,” Mr Galpin said.

“They continue to enable the city to act as a stable and secure platform for companies looking to do business in the region and beyond.”

He added that more would be done in 2010 to attract companies from such emerging markets as India, Latin America, the Middle East and Russia. In addition, InvestHK will strengthen its marketing promotion efforts on the mainland to assist corporations looking to expand internationally by using Hong Kong as their hub. It will also continue to organise joint promotion seminars with mainland partners in key overseas cities to promote the combined advantages of Hong Kong and the mainland, in particular the Pearl River Delta region.

© Hong Kong Trade Development Council 


Profits Surge for China's Listed In 2009

It has been a bumper year for China's businesses with around 70 percent releasing annual reports listing staggering profits. The rise in profits for China's listed companies in 2009 was spurred by real estate developers and machine manufacturers thanks to a rebound in the housing market and huge government stimulus.

According to Wind Info, as of Feb 9, 101 listed companies have released their annual reports before the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday. Among them, 42 reported an over 30 percent year-on-year increase in net profit and 24 companies' net profit jumped more than 100 percent, the daily China Business News (CBN) reported.

As of Jan 31, 2010, 1,103 out of 1,754 listed companies predicted their 2009 financial performance in third-quarter reports or short statements, according to a Shanghai Securities News report.

The report said 679, or 61.56 percent of the total, foresaw a year-on-year growth. It also showed that the overall performance of the listed companies signaled a rebound in 2009 from 2008, while 40.3 percent of the 986 listed companies reported a positive performance amid the financial crisis.

Industry insiders have attributed the net profits increase to the central government's economic stimulus plan. Investment injected into the infrastructure construction projects has benefited sectors such as machinery, transport equipment, communication facilities and construction and building materials, the China Securities Journal said.

The decline in commodity prices has also contributed to the profit growth of chemical companies and coal-fired power plants.

Moreover, drop in financial expenses due to low-interest rates in 2009 has also indirectly helped boost profits, the report said.

Property developers

Many property developers have already released annual reports as some of them have achieved a more satisfactory performance in 2009 compared with companies in other sectors.

As of Feb 9, 11 listed property developers disclosed annual reports, reporting a total net profit of 5.71 billion yuan, a 40.6 percent increase from the 4.06 billion yuan in 2008, the China Securities Journal said.

Beijing Dalong Weiye Real Estate Development Co reported the highest net profit increase in 2009. It reported a net profit of 339 million yuan, a 142.56-fold increase from the previous year.

The big profit increase was generated by the boom in the real estate market last year. However, regulators have begun to adopt a relatively tight monetary policy to curb excessive expansion in the real estate sector. Concern over the developers' performance in 2010 lingered in the market as some securities brokerages warned that the central government may release more strict regulatory policies and the sales of apartments may slide more than expected, according to a CBN report.

The central bank has raised the deposit reserve requirement ratio by 0.5 percentage points twice this year to curb the "comparatively loose liquidity," which was a signal of the tightening monetary policy.

Small and Medium Enterprises Board and ChiNext

As of Feb 9, 20 companies listed on Small and Medium Enterprises Board or China's NASDAQ-style board ChiNext have released their annual reports.

The overall performance of the small and medium-sized enterprises lags behind the performance of companies listed on the main board, the CBN reported.

Only nine companies reported an over 20 percent increase in net profits and some even reported decreases. GoerTek Inc, a wireless communication devices producer, and Henan Xinye Textile Co, a cotton manufacturer, both reported an approximately 20 percent slide in net profits.

Thus some companies on ChiNext planned to make a big offer in the profit allotment. Hexin Flush Information Network Company, a financial information provider, planned to give 10 shares plus 3 yuan in cash per 10 shares to their shareholders.

More to come

After the Chinese Lunar New Year, more annual business reports are expected to be released. According to the schedules published by Shanghai Securities Exchange and Shenzhen Securities Exchange, 737 companies will release their annual reports in March and 762 will hand in the reports during April, accounting for approximately 80 percent of the total.

All the companies listed before Dec 31, 2009, should release their annual reports before the deadline set for April 30, 2010, according to the exchanges' regulation.

Sources: China Daily


Gold Purchases Ruled Out To Diversify Forex Reserves

Gold purchases ruled out to diversify forex reserves

Expectations of stronger yuan will intensify this year, official says

BEIJING: The government is unlikely to buy large amounts of gold as a means to diversify its $2.39 trillion worth foreign exchange reserves, a senior official said, while stressing that "the US treasuries market is very important for China".

But the official cast no light on the prospects for the renminbi, which has been traded at around 6.83 per dollar since mid-2008, a move some countries speculate keeps the value of renminbi "artificially low" and helps Chinese exporters weather the global credit crunch.

"Gold cannot be a major investment to diversify foreign exchange reserves" as purchases could push up gold prices sharply. Also, the average long-term returns on investment in gold are low, Yi Gang, head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), said on Tuesday at a news conference.

"If China purchases gold on a large scale, prices on the international market price will surge, which would, in turn, affect domestic individual consumers," Yi said.

Despite price rises in recent months, "gold prices have had drastic ups and downs in the past three decades or so, and the average returns are not very good".

According to SAFE figures, China's gold holdings surged to 1,054 tons in 2009 from 454 tons in 2003. The nation is the world's fifth-largest gold holder and the second largest consumer.

Analysts said Yi's remarks virtually rule out the possibility of Beijing buying 191.3 tons of gold from the International Monetary Fund, as speculated by some media. The reports suggested gold purchases could help China reduce the risk of holding large volumes of US dollar assets as a major part of its foreign exchange reserves.

But Liu Xu, senior metal analyst at China International Futures, disagreed. "I'm not surprised to hear Yi's comments. It is impossible to bet on gold for diversification of reserves."

The US holds 8,000 tons of gold, the highest in the world. Assuming China raises its holding to 10,000 tons, it would cost $300 billion based on current prices but that would account for only 15 percent of the country's foreign exchange reserves, Liu said.
The SAFE head also emphasized that "the US treasuries market is very important for China. There is no doubt both countries benefit from China's treasuries investment".

Some US legislators fear that China could gradually reduce its holding of US treasuries after relations turned sour as a result of recent spats over several issues.

"I don't want it (investment in treasuries) to be politicized," Yi said. "We are a responsible investor."

It is estimated that about 70 percent of China's foreign exchange reserves are invested in dollar assets. Overall, Yi said, "China has achieved fairly good yields from management of the reserves".

On currency policy, Yi, also vice-governor of the People's Bank of China, reiterated that China would keep the currency basically steady.

But Yi said expectations of a stronger yuan would intensify this year, attracting "cross-border arbitrage" funds, because of the country's relatively high interest rates.

Proceeds from exports would also rise as global recovery generated demand for Chinese goods.

“With foreign direct investment expected to increase steadily, China will be facing greater pressures from the rising amount of foreign exchange inflows," he said.

Sources: China Daily

Here Comes the Chinese Bride

The China (Beijing) Winter Wedding Expo 2009 at the Beijing Exhibition Centre is the world's largest wedding-trade event, providing a host of ideas and products for couples planning to tie the knot. Organised by the Chinese mainland government, the December show attracted leading enterprises and brands from the mainland as well as from Canada, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States.

According to figures supplied by the Expo, wedding-related consumption on the mainland amounts to Rmb400 billion a year, or 2.5 per cent of its GDP.

Shi Kangning, President of the China Wedding Service Industries Committee, is upbeat about the development of the mainland’s wedding industry.

Every year, more than eight million people get married on the mainland. The "one-child generation" born after 1980 has now reached marriageable age.  And they have specific preferences. For example, 88.4 per cent like to have wedding photos taken; 49.1 per cent want to hire wedding planners; 78.7 per cent host wedding banquets at restaurants; 36.8 per cent buy wedding gowns for the bride; and 67.6 per cent plan to go on honeymoon.

One of the wedding gowns on display at the Beijing Winter Wedding Expo

Great Gowns

"There are many kinds of wedding gowns, and every one of them is good," said Miss Chan, a visitor to the Expo.

Working for a lifestyle magazine, Miss Chan said she visits the Expo every year but found the latest event particularly impressive in scale and standards.

Wedding gowns on display ranged from classic styles to modern French designs. Materials used were up-market, with gowns made of silk, satin, pearly fabric, patterned chiffon and other material.

Wedding-gown exhibitors included such brands as W-wedding and Jeongkyungok Wedding of South Korea, Anjeri, Julia, Vivian, Marco Bruno, Enjoy, Kal, Flowervoice, L'amour, Modern Bazaar, Iswear, Lanhua Bride, Moma and Xuanxuan, all names favoured by mainland consumers. At the Jeongkyungok booth, a young couple made detailed enquiries on the material, design and price of a particular wedding gown. To help move things along, the manager offered them a 40 per cent discount on the gown, which was originally on sale for Rmb8,000.

"Choosing a wedding gown that one likes and keeping it as a souvenir is particularly meaningful,” the bride said. “Little did I expect that my wish would come true at this show."

"I am so glad that they picked our company's product," the exhibitor said, adding: "The financial crisis has hit the purchasing power of young people, and many have chosen to rent rather than buy their wedding dresses. However, as China's economy rebounds, the number of young people buying wedding gowns has started to rise."

Capturing the Moment

Diamonds remain among the perennial favourites

Personal, movie-style wedding photography is a hit in Beijing. Taking wedding photos outdoors is the trend.

Wedding videos offer couples the magic of capturing their most memorable event in detail. The Wedding Expo organiser invited the top 50 players in Beijing's wedding photography market to participate at the exhibition.

About 1,000 wedding photography options were on display at the Expo, attracting large crowds. Mr Zheng, who is getting married 1 May, signed an agreement on site with photo studio Figaro, which charged him 20 per cent less than the market price, while also throwing in extra incentives, including large-sized photos and crystal photo frames. The deal included outdoor shooting to be done at various locations, including a snowy landscape, scenic spots and luxury villas.

At the jewellery section, white and single-colour platinum products continued to lead market trends, while rubies, sapphires, pink diamonds, yellow diamonds and neutral-colour diamonds were popular. European-style bezel settings and retro-style square or round cuts won the hearts of many.

International jewellery houses from Europe, the US, Japan, South Korea and Canada, as well as top-notch Chinese brands, exhibited at the Expo. Among them were Kela, Lovemark, 9Diamond, Shangshi, Dacheng, J&X, DnG and Fooray Startalent.

Lifelong maintenance of wedding jewellery was also offered on site. According to Mr Liu, Sales Manager of 9Diamond, his company sold 20 high-end jewellery items, offering 10 different styles over the three days.

Romantic Theme

More than eight million people tie the knot
each year on the Chinese mainland, representing
huge opportunities for the wedding industry

The banquet is a wedding highlight, and top hotels have become the most popular venues for such occasions.

"Personalised and creative ideas, a great environment, quality service and romantic themes – this is the lifestyle today’s young people today are after," said a Beijing Hotel spokesperson.

Wedding accessories were also on display at the Expo. These included thousands of wedding-related products such as cartoon badges, twig pens engraved with the names of the bride and groom, wedding-table flowers in small crystal containers, floating candles with orchids, red wine and wedding candies.

©  Hong Kong Trade Development Council 


Fast-tracked Wine

Portugal’s Sogrape Vinhos set up its Asian base in Hong Kong about two years ago to distribute the company’s brands in the region, including the fast-growing Chinese mainland market.

“We have no doubts that the potential [of the mainland market] is enormous,” said Filipe Carvalho, Managing Director of Sogrape Group (IW Hong Kong Ltd). “China is definitely a growth market for us, although there is a long way to go in terms of distribution, consumption habits and wine education.”

Mr Carvalho said exporting wines to the mainland “has been quite demanding and complex because, many times, customs requirements are not consistent and change frequently.”

That will soon change under an agreement between Hong Kong and the mainland that will make it easier for Hong Kong-based traders to export wine into the mainland.

Filipe Carvalho, Managing Director, Sogrape Vinhos (IW Hong Kong Ltd)

Traders to Benefit

“The measures to be put in place will help enhance transparency and certainty in doing business, thus facilitating Hong Kong’s wine traders who wish to expand their operations on the mainland,’” said Rita Lau, Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development. The moves, she said, are part of efforts to strengthen Hong Kong’s position as the regions’ wine trading and distribution hub.

The new measures, to be introduced in the second quarter of the year, are open to registered traders. Companies that have been set up in Hong Kong for at least six months and are engaged in wine-related businesses, including trading, storage and logistics, are eligible to register.

Currently, it could take several weeks for wine shipments to clear mainland customs and quarantine procedures. Under the plan, registered traders can ask mainland customs to conduct a duty valuation 10 working days before the shipment leaves Hong Kong. Mainland customs authorities would normally complete the procedures within one working day of the shipment arriving at a mainland boundary point.

More wines from Portugal’s Sogrape’s vineyards in Quinta do Seixo in Douro Valley are likely bound for the Chinese mainland, thanks to the new customs facilitation scheme for Hong Kong-based exporters

For registered traders who choose not to use the pre-valuation service, mainland customs, under the agreement, would strive to shorten the clearance time at the boundary point. Wines that have been imported into the mainland before will normally take no more than three working days to clear, with submission of the necessary documents. Wines new to the mainland, meanwhile, would be processed within seven working days. And if customs clearance is not completed within the timeframe, the goods may still be released with a deposit, to allow the wines to go on the market as soon as possible.

“This measure will definitely make the export process from Hong Kong to the mainland more transparent,” said Mr Carvalho. “It will give more confidence to our partners when importing from Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong Commissioner of Customs and Excise Richard Yuen (front row, left) and Vice Minister of the General Administration of Customs Sun Yibiao sign a cooperation agreement on customs facilitation measures, witnessed by Hong Kong and Chinese mainland officials, including Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang (centre) and Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Rita Lau (third from left)

Another Step in the Ladder

Canadian wine distributor Portfolio Wine and Spirits Inc, which is eyeing the mainland market, also welcomed the move. Leo Baduria, who manages the company’s Hong Kong-based retail shop Wines to Go, said the measures will help the company’s expansion plans into the mainland. 

“The government has provided another step in the ladder for the local wine industry to develop,” said Gregory De’eb, Managing Director of Crown Wine Cellars, Hong Kong’s first fine-wine storage facility. “It provides clarity of the mainland system that’s desperately needed for small exporters unable to establish a strong line.”

Mr De’eb believes that the move will mainly benefit rare and fine-wine exporters. “It locks down the time lines and input process for fine wines to go into China,” he noted.

A clear and transparent system, he said, would avoid delays that could put shipments at risk. “If it’s sitting in improper conditions, you stand to lose the whole shipment.

“It’s great not only for fine-wine exporters but for mainland consumers, because it will raise the quality of wine available on the mainland market. And that, for someone who’s as passionate about wine as me, is good news.”

Asia’s Wine Hub

The agreement, signed last month, is the latest effort to develop Hong Kong as a regional wine hub following the abolition of wine duties in 2008. The value of wine imports soared 80 per cent that year from 2007, and increased another 41 per cent year-on-year in 2009. The mainland’s wine imports are projected to grow to as much as US$870 million by 2017, representing 58 per cent of the Asian market, excluding Japan.

The government said it would continue exploring new measures to help the trade make further inroads into the mainland market. 
“We will also continue to discuss with the relevant mainland authorities in mapping out possible facilitation measures on the quarantine side,” said Assistant Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Aubrey Fung.

Shenzhen will be the testing ground for the new customs facilitation scheme. After a review of the measures six to nine months after its introduction, the scheme may be extended in phases to other major mainland cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing.

© Hong Kong Trade Development Council 



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