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Tuesday, 29 January 2008

HK can be Asia's Islamic financial centre - CE Donald Tsang

Hong Kong is well-placed to become a centre for Islamic finance in Asia, Chief Executive Donald Tsang says, inviting Kuwaiti banks and financial-services companies to extend and diversify their global reach through the city.

Addressing the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce & Industry at a business lunch today, Mr Tsang said Hong Kong's sound financial services infrastructure and well-established legal system make it an attractive location for such investments.

The first Islamic retail fund launched recently in Hong Kong had attracted about US$45 million worth of orders by last December.

Noting Hong Kong is already a market of first choice for Middle Eastern companies, Mr Tsang said average annual bilateral trade with Kuwait grew 20.5% from 2002 to 2006 - in 2006 it was worth US$264 million.

"One way to further deepen the trading relationship is for Kuwaiti companies to capitalise on Hong Kong's special status within China. One of our biggest advantages is a unique free trade pact between the Mainland and Hong Kong, what we call our Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, or CEPA for short."

"We welcome investment by sovereign wealth funds, which are becoming more prominent in financial markets and are a positive force for global markets. We can also learn a great deal from your expertise in the provision of Shariah-compliant services," Mr Tsang said.

The final day of his Kuwait visit, the Chief Executive later met Kuwait Investment Authority Managing Director Bader Mohammad Al-Saad and Kuwait Chamber of Commerce & Industry Chairman Ali Mohamad Al Ghanem. He also toured the Kuwait Aquarium & Scientific Centre.

Mr Tsang next heads for the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh to continue his Middle East tour. He will return to Hong Kong February 1.
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