HSBC was left off of a list of more than a dozen banks chosen to manage a US$6 billion international sale of Chinese sovereign bonds this week for the first time since the country resumed issuing international debt three years ago.
The Ministry of Finance issued a mandate this week for multi-tranche, US-dollar denominated bonds to four state-owned lenders and nine foreign banks, including BofA Securities, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs , JPMorgan Chase and Standard Chartered , according to a person familiar with the matter.
The biggest of Hong Kong’s currency issuing banks, HSBC was the only lender that participated in the country’s last US dollar debt offering in November 2019 not to be tapped to participate in this year’s issuance. It was replaced by Citigroup.
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It was not immediately clear why HSBC was left off the offering. A call to the finance ministry’s press office was not answered outside of working hours on Tuesday.
A HSBC spokesman declined to comment on specific deals, but said the bank had a “good ongoing working relationship” with the Ministry of Finance.
“As the leading foreign bank for G3 debt issuance in mainland China, HSBC is committed to supporting our clients and the opening up of China’s capital markets,” he said.
The fundraising comes at a time when HSBC has increasingly found itself caught in the middle of rising tensions between Washington and Beijing.
London-based HSBC drew the ire of politicians in the US and the United Kingdom over its support for a controversial national security law adopted by Beijing for Hong Kong this summer.
Nationalistic tabloid Global Times also has said HSBC could be included on an “unreliable entities” list being drafted by Beijing because of help it provided US prosecutors in an investigation into Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies.
The fundraising also marks another important step in expanding access to China’s financial markets to overseas investors.
China‘s government will market debt directly to US-based institutional investors for the first time since it resumed issuing international debt in 2018 after a 13-year hiatus.
The Ministry of Finance issued a mandate this week to state-owned lenders Bank of China, Bank of Communications, China Construction Bank and China International Capital Corporation, alongside foreign banks BofA Securities, Citigroup, Crédit Agricole, CTBC Bank, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Mizuho Securities and Standard Chartered, according to the person familiar, who was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.
The deal is expected to price on Wednesday and would be in line with last year’s issuance, which was about US$6 billion, according to the person.
Moody’s Investors Service assigned a A1 rating to China’s US-dollar debt on Wednesday, saying Beijing has institutional capacity combined with financial buffers to “offset the credit negative consequences of the coronavirus pandemic” in the near term.
“Over the longer term, China‘s credit strengths reduce the risks related to ongoing tensions between the US and China, a reshaping of global supply chains and demographic pressure,” Moody’s said in a statement on Tuesday.
Fitch Ratings separately assigned an A+ rating to the proposed offering,
Beijing is moving to open up its financial sector to foreign lenders and more overseas investors as it seeks to expand the adoption of the yuan as a trade currency.
Last year, the government approved rules allowing overseas companies to take control of their mainland China joint ventures in the asset management, insurance and securities sectors, spurring a series of deals this year.
China is also gradually opening up its US$16 trillion onshore debt markets to foreign investors.
In September, FTSE Russell said it would start adding Chinese sovereign debt into its World Government Bond Index from October next year, becoming the last of the major bond index providers to include Chinese government bonds in their indices beginning last year.
The inclusion by FTSE Russell is expected to lead to a further influx of as much as US$150 billion of foreign money into Chinese debt, following moves by Bloomberg Barclays and JPMorgan to include Chinese government bonds in their indices.
Foreign investors held 2.8 trillion yuan (US$415 billion) of Chinese bonds at the end of August, with the Chinese bond market expanding by 40 per cent annually over the past three years. China is the world’s second-biggest bond market after the US, surpassing Japan in 2019.
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This article HSBC left off fundraising by China’s Ministry of Finance, first time since 2017 first appeared on South China Morning Post