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If Hong Kong loses its status as one of Asia’s top financial centers, it would be disastrous for the Asian financial hub, said the founder and chief executive officer of Citic Capital.

There is “no lack of competition for financial centers,” said Zhang Yichen, who is also chairman at the investment firm — a Hong Kong-based alternative investment arm of the Chinese financial conglomerate Citic Group.

Investors can turn to other cities like Singapore, Tokyo and Shanghai to access global capital markets, he told CNBC’s Amanda Drury at the Singapore Summit on Saturday.

“I think if Hong Kong doesn’t shape up, you shouldn’t have a sense of entitlement (that) it has to be the financial center,” he said. If the territory should lose that status, it “spells disaster because that’s the only industry these days that’s competitive.”

Protests in Hong Kong erupted more than three months ago over a now-withdrawn extradition bill, which would have paved the way for suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial. While the pro-democracy protests started out as relatively peaceful in June, they have since turned increasingly violent.

Hong Kong protestors on Sunday trampled on a Chinese flag, vandalized a subway station and set fire across a wide street, the Associated Press reported.

I don’t believe Shanghai and other Chinese cities can actually replace Hong Kong … If (Hong Kong) squanders that on its own, it’ll be a shame.

Zhang Yichen

Citic Capital

Formerly a British colony, Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997. It is one of China’s special administrative regions and is governed under the “one country, two systems” principle, which gives its citizens certain economic and legal freedoms not given in mainland China.

Zhang said the city has its advantages over other Chinese cities like Shanghai because of the “one country, two systems” policy.

Hong Kong’s legal system is similar to what is followed in a lot of countries around the world, which gives investors a certain level of comfort, he said. In addition to that, its proximity to the Chinese mainland is another plus point for investors, he added.

“From that perspective, I don’t believe Shanghai and other Chinese cities can actually replace Hong Kong,” he said. “If (Hong Kong) squanders that on its own, it’ll be a shame.”

However, the violence and chaos have crippled the city and disrupted daily life, and in turn, hurt businesses and dented investor sentiment.

Zhang said the protests have not affected Citic Capital’s business since it invests mostly either in China or around the world. “Hong Kong is just a base for us where a lot of our senior colleagues live and work,” he added.

Citic Capital says on its website it manages more than $26 billion of capital. Last month, the firm said it raised $2.8 billion in its fourth China buyout fund and would look at China-focused investment opportunities in sectors such as consumer, health care and technology.

Reuters and CNBC’s Grace Shao contributed to this report.

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Zilingo says it will help train women entrepreneurs in Indonesia

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The logo of Zilingo is displayed on a window at the company’s office in Singapore.

Ore Huiying | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Southeast Asian fashion start-up Zilingo on Wednesday said it is launching a program in Indonesia, where it will provide microloans, vocational training and resources for women to run their own garment manufacturing businesses.

Those micro-businesses would receive and fulfill small-scale apparel orders from fashion brands on Zilingo’s network. For its part, Zilingo will make money by taking a cut from every transaction.

Zilingo was founded in 2015 as an online marketplace where independent fashion and lifestyle retailers can sell directly to customers. Those retailers get access to suppliers from places like Bangladesh to procure their products, and Zilingo helps them with cross-border shipping, inventory management and customer service. Zilingo charges retailers commissions between 10% to 20%.

The program, called SheWorkz, is aimed at providing women with the resources and flexibility to return to the workforce, according to Zilingo CEO and co-founder Ankiti Bose.

“One of the biggest problems that we have, it’s not only a social challenge but an economic challenge in Asia, is just how many women are not in the workforce,” Bose told CNBC.

“And, there are several reasons for it — some are economic, but many are social. They’ve gotten married, they’ve had kids, they’ve fallen off the workforce.”

Women made up about 38.9% of Indonesia’s total labor force in 2018, while their participation rate was 52% compared to 82% for men, according to World Bank data.

Various studies have said having more women in the workforce can boost countries in their economic ambitions and help companies drive better profits.

The program is supported by Indonesia’s ministry of economic affairs and state-owned lenders Bank Mandiri and Bank Negara Indonesia. For the pilot project, Bose said Zilingo will start with about 300 women who used to work for the start-up’s manufacturing partners, but who eventually left the workforce. New participants will be sought out after that.

“What we’re doing is going and extending them an option to work from their homes with all the facilities provided by us,” Bose said. The goal is to increase the program’s capacity to about 5,000 women in Indonesia over the next 12 to 18 months, she added.

If the program is successful in Indonesia, then Zilingo intends to bring it to other countries like India, which has one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world.

Zilingo, which launched in the United States this month, has raised more than $308 million in funds and is backed by well-known names such as Sequoia Capital and Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings.

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Alibaba Group thwarts 300 million hack attempts per day

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Alibaba’s company logo at its office in Hong Kong on February 22, 2012.

Aaron Tam/Stringer | Getty Images

Chinese technology giant Alibaba Group is the target of some 300 million attempted cyber attacks per day, according to the company’s founder and former executive chairman, Jack Ma.

Ma said he was “proud” that despite the tirade of subterfuge, Alipay — the group’s payments arm which reports close to 1 billion users and processes $50 billion worth of transactions per day — has yet to lose “one cent” to hackers.

“For Alibaba Group, we have over 300 million hacking attempts per day. Every day. But we deal (with) it. We don’t have even one problem,” Ma said at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore on Tuesday.

By way of contrast, embattled Chinese technology giant Huawei is subject to around 1 million daily cyberattacks, according to its security chief. Until now, other technology companies have been less forthcoming in revealing their cyber attack vulnerabilities.

Give my data to a machine. I trust a machine more than (I) trust people.

Jack Ma

Alibaba founder and former executive chairman

Alibaba faced a sweeping cyber attack attempt in February, which threatened to compromise the accounts of 20 million users on its Taobao e-commerce site. The company said it detected the attack “in the first instance.”

Ma cited the company’s advanced tech capabilities, which he dubbed “AI: Alibaba Intelligence,” for its continued success rate, noting that machines are superior to humans in using logic to thwart malicious online behavior.

“We teach the machine all the ways people (are) cheating,” said Ma. “The machine remembers over millions of ways of cheating, so when we start the cheating, (the) machine already knows you are cheating. In this way we are protecting all the technology.”

Jack Ma (right), co-founder and former executive chair of Alibaba Group, speaks next to Steve Forbes (left), chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes media, during the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore on October 15, 2019.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

To achieve that degree of accuracy, however, Ma noted the company must collect vast swathes of customer data. He argued that doing so allowed Alibaba to develop safeguards to detect bad human actors.

“Give my data to a machine,” said Ma. “I trust a machine more than (I) trust people.”

“I give my data to people, I worry about that. People say ‘ah, this is Jack Ma, I want to know about him.’ Machine(s) don’t care if you’re Jack Ma or Jack Lee. Machine cares whether you do good things or bad things.”

Ma retired from Alibaba last month, 20 years after the company’s founding. At the conference in Singapore, he was honored with the Malcolm S Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award for his “outstanding” contributions to entrepreneurship.

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Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam annual policy address interrupted

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Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam leaves her annual policy address due to disruptions by pro-democracy lawmakers in the Legislative Council on October 16, 2019.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

Pro-democracy lawmakers shouted at Hong Kong embattled leader Carrie Lam on the floor of the legislature as she was set to deliver her annual speech on Wednesday.

Lam’s remarks were initially suspended amid disruption. As she was set to begin her address a second time, pro-democracy lawmakers interrupted her and some even threw objects at her. 

The proceedings were adjourned as the six democratic lawmakers were escorted out of the room. Lam also left the legislature’s chambers.

Lam was set to formally withdraw the extradition bill that sparked nearly five months of sometimes violent protests in the city.

She was expected to also focus on land and housing initiatives in a bid to restore confidence in the city’s future after months of anti-government protests that have crippled the city and dampened investor sentiment in the Asian financial hub.

Pro-democracy lawmakers wearing masks with the image of Chinese President Xi Jinping disrupt proceedings during the annual policy address of Carrie Lam on October 16, 2019.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

The semi-autonomous city battles to overcome its greatest political turmoil since 1997, when the former British colony was handed over to China. Hong Kong now operates under the “one country, two systems” principle, in which Beijing grants Hong Kong citizens financial and legal independence from the mainland.

This is breaking news. Please check back updates.

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