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Shuli Ren 任淑丽, Columnist 专栏作家

Stop Comparing Hong Kong to Singapore

They sit in very different corners of the financial system. The rise of one doesn’t spell the demise of the other. 

Enough room for two.

Photographer: NurPhoto/Getty Images

足够容纳两人:NurPhoto/Getty Images

Business travelers have been visiting Hong Kong in recent weeks, attending big finance conferences and mulling whether to wade back into China. Chinese and Hong Kong stocks are up by some $2 trillion in market value since the January lows.
最近几周,商务旅客纷纷访问香港,参加大型金融会议,并考虑是否重返中国。自一月份的低点以来,中国和香港股市的市值上涨了约 2 万亿美元。

Exchanging investment ideas aside, visitors are keen to offer their views on the future of Hong Kong, whose reputation has been dented since the government’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in 2019. Views are diverse. Last week, Stephen Roach, Morgan Stanley’s former Asia chair, defended an article he had written that claimed “Hong Kong is over.” Perhaps not coincidentally, emerging markets investing guru Mark Mobius posted a blog on the same day saying the opposite, and that it was never a good idea to write off the potential of any city.
除了交流投资理念,游客们还热衷于对香港的未来发表看法,因为自 2019 年政府镇压民主运动以来,香港的声誉受到了影响。观点多种多样。上周,摩根士丹利前亚洲区主席斯蒂芬-罗奇(Stephen Roach)为他撰写的一篇文章辩护,文章称 "香港已经完了"。也许并非巧合,新兴市场投资大师马克-莫比乌斯(Mark Mobius)在同一天发表了一篇博客,他的观点恰恰相反,他认为抹杀任何城市的潜力都不是一个好主意。

It’s a lively debate. But almost invariably, Singapore is mentioned alongside Hong Kong in these discussions, as if the rise of one spells the demise of the other.

In my view, this comparison isn’t fair. Hong Kong and Singapore sit in very different corners of the financial system. One is an established trading hub that helps companies raise capital, while the other is more suited for private wealth management.

China looms large over both financial centers, whose fortunes move like ocean waves as the mainland goes through business cycles. After the global financial crisis, Hong Kong was the big winner. Blue-chip Chinese companies raced to go public on its bourse and issued billion-dollar corporate bonds. For years, earning investment banking fees was effortless.

Disgruntled Bankers 心怀不满的银行家

Hong Kong's stock market is in a third year of IPO drought

Source: Bloomberg 来源:彭博社来源:彭博社

As the Chinese economy slowed, Singapore started to shine. Rich mainlanders have been immigrating there since 2019. Singapore has a natural edge in private wealth management, in that it’s not part of China. It’s no coincidence that millionaires from developing nations like to park their money in places like Zurich, far away from banks at home and their governments’ scrutiny.
随着中国经济放缓,新加坡开始大放异彩。自 2019 年以来,内地富人纷纷移民新加坡。新加坡在私人财富管理方面拥有天然优势,因为它不属于中国。发展中国家的百万富翁喜欢把钱存放在苏黎世等地,远离国内银行和政府的监管,这并非巧合。

Money Ball 金钱球

Singapore has attracted billions of dollars of new money since 2019
新加坡自 2019 年以来吸引了数十亿美元的新资金

Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore

Think of it this way: Hong Kong is where the Chinese can grow their wealth, while Singapore is where they can preserve it. As China’s economy hits a wall, Singapore is naturally the bigger beneficiary, as Hong Kong once was.

But does that mean Hong Kong is over? The logic is as absurd as questioning if developed economies still need capital markets. Deal flows have slowed, and making money won’t be as easy, but there’s still demand. Mature firms need to raise cash for other purposes, such as optimizing their capital structure. Recently, blue-chip Chinese firms have been issuing convertible bonds in the city to fund stock buybacks. Hard as Singapore has tried, it still doesn’t have a liquid enough stock market that can rival Hong Kong’s.

Meanwhile, private wealth from China also comes with its own challenges. A money-laundering scandal involving more than S$3 billion ($2.23 billion) has tarnished Singapore’s image and exposed weaknesses in how its banks screen their clients.
与此同时,来自中国的私人财富也带来了自身的挑战。一桩涉及 30 多亿新元(22.3 亿美元)的洗钱丑闻损害了新加坡的形象,也暴露了新加坡银行在筛选客户方面的弱点。

Singapore washing,” or Chinese companies setting up headquarters in the city-state to sidestep US-China geopolitical tensions, is another problem. How much of that capital influx will stay in the country, and whether the local economy will benefit, remains an open question.
"另一个问题是 "新加坡清洗",即中国公司在这个城市国家设立总部,以避开中美地缘政治紧张局势。这些涌入的资本有多少会留在新加坡,当地经济是否会从中受益,这些都还是未知数。

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So far, much of that new money seems to treat Singapore as a mere stopover. Investment firms salivating at the chance to manage billions of dollars have been disappointed. Shein, founded in China where most of its suppliers are, is planning to go public in London, and is hoping to take advantage of the publicity there for a valuation of more than $60 billion. The online fashion group is not listing in Singapore, where it has its corporate headquarters.

Often, hot money is myopic and judgmental. But those who are savvy and committed to Asia know each city has its own bragging rights and structural challenges. So please, stop comparing apples to oranges.

More From Bloomberg Opinion:
Bloomberg 观点的更多内容:

  • Behind the Hong Kong Market’s Mysterious Rally: Shuli Ren
  • Singapore Offices Need a New Wave of Tenants: Andy Mukherjee
  • Hong Kong Trial Tests China’s Tightening Grip: Karishma Vaswani

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    This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    Shuli Ren is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian markets. A former investment banker, she was a markets reporter for Barron’s. She is a CFA charterholder.