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Hong Kong’s foreign reserve reaches $258.8bn in March, to diversify into hedge funds, PE

Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Opalesque Industry Update – Hong Kong’s foreign dollar reserves rose to $258.8bn in March, up by $600m compared to the February figure. The reserves have given the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (the special administrative region’s de facto central bank) more flexibility to invest in riskier portfolios.

In a statement, HKMA said total foreign currency reserve assets represent over nine times the currency in circulation or about 56% of Hong Kong dollar M3. Hong Kong is the world’s seventh largest holder of foreign currency reserves based on the latest published figures, after Mainland China, Japan, Russia, Taiwan, India and Korea.

A report by FT.com showed that at least three private equity firms, including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), Bain and Blackstone received investments from or held talks with HKMA. The bank is even considering investing in the mainland.

According to TheStandard.com, HKMA’s foray into alternative investments is a major shift of policy since Norman Chan Tak- lam took over the helm of the bank. His predecessor, Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, did not even considered alternative investments during his term.

Benzinga.com described HKMA’s exposures as conservative and the bank has traditionally invested its reserves in safe liquid investments. TheStandard.com quoted an HKMA spokesperson as saying: "The authority has an ongoing review of Exchange Fund investment principles. But as it is market sensitive we would not comment on its daily operations."

Last year, the Exchange Fund posted a total HK$106.7bn ($13.75bn) investment income, or a 5.9% investment return amid strong rebound in global equities.

Hong Kong’s economy has also shown positive grown in the first two months of 2010 after overall export value rose 23% year-on-year, according to Chinaknowledge.com. Export value of domestic goods jumped 21% on the back of stabilizing global economy. The city is expected to continue to experience double-digit growth in its export sector in the first half of this year. – Precy Dumlao

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