HKEx may still be your best bet

Updated: 2016-03-14 07:32

By Peter Liang(HK Edition)

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 HKEx may still be your best bet

It may be prudent to buy Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing shares while prices are still low.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx), which holds the monopoly to operate the city's stock and futures markets, was the stock market darling not too long ago. But since the market turned from boom to bust in June last year, it was relegated to the dump heap by stock analysts and investors with a short memory and an even shorter attention span.

HKEx has just announced a sterling performance for 2015 with profit having surged 54 percent from a year earlier to a record HK$7.96 billion. Despite beating analysts' predictions, the results have failed to impress investors and lift the company's share price.

It is just that investors are taking the view that the economic downturn will continue to depress corporate earnings in the coming months, chipping away at whatever is left of the incentive to invest in stocks. The resulting decline in turnover would prolong the doldrums and discourage local and mainland companies from raising capital by issuing new shares at a widening discount.

The efforts of HKEx Chief Executive Charles Li Xiaojia to expand into new businesses and markets are also seen to be facing headwinds.

The company's proposal for a third market for high-tech startups was challenged by regulators who are working to correct alleged abuses of the existing Growth Enterprise Market.

But recent developments in global markets and the Chinese mainland economy may suggest that the outlook is not that dim after all.

The latest US job figures indicate that the economy is humming along instead of stalling as some economists had predicted. Oil prices, which are widely taken as a barometer of global economic health, are stabilizing.

Contrary to earlier estimates, Japan's economy has performed better than previous data had suggested. And Europe is showing signs of emerging from the economic slump as the effect of unusually low interest rates begins to take hold.

More important to Hong Kong is that the Chinese mainland authorities have set the baseline of economic growth at 6.5 percent a year. This has helped dispel any fears of a hard landing that could have had serious repercussions in Hong Kong.

If you, like many other investors, see HKEx as the stock market proxy, you may want to consider buying its shares now while prices are still low.

(HK Edition 03/14/2016 page8)