Macau approves first bond listing since Xi Jinping’s anniversary visit as China seeks to transform world’s biggest gambling hub

Georgina Lee

An urban and infrastructure developer in Nanjing has become the first Chinese state-backed entity to list its securities on a Macau bond exchange, following up on President Xi Jinping’s measures to shift the city’s financial focus during the 20th handover anniversary last month.

Nanjing Southeast State-owned Asset Investment Group said its 1 billion yuan of notes will be listed and traded on a platform managed by Chongwa (Macao) Financial Asset Exchange Co. from January 8, according to a company filing. The 10-year notes with a 4.6 per cent annual coupon, was solely managed by Jianghai Securities Co.

The listing added to a handful of bonds on the nascent exchange issued by companies and banks since the Macau exchange was established in October 2018, but is symbolic of the Chinese Government’s support in diversifying the city’s economy from the casino industry.

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Xi made a three-day visit to Macau in December to mark two decades of its return to Chinese sovereignty from Portuguese rule. The visit was preceded by a People's Bank of China’s move to raise the daily limit on yuan remittance to 80,000 yuan (US$11,400) from 50,000 yuan (US$7,100).

Xi announced a raft of measures to advance Beijing’s vision for the gambling hub to become a service platform for commercial and trade cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries. Part of the vision includes a yuan-denominated stock exchange for the city, according to news reports. China is also promoting the Greater Bay Area as a new growth hub, which includes Macau, Hong Kong and nine cities in the southern Guangdong province.

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Macau is the world’s biggest gambling hub, but revenue has weakened in the last quarter, partly due to a security lockdown ahead of Xi’s visit. Gambling revenue fell 3.4 per cent in 2019, reversing a two-year advance, according to data published by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. Gaming taxes make up more than 80 per cent of the city’s budget revenue.

People walk in front of Casino Lisboa in Macau in December 2019. Photo: Reuters

Nanjing Southeast State-owned Asset Investment Group said proceeds from the bond issue will be used to fund a free-trade zone in Nanjing, a city in northeastern Jiangsu province, according to a statement issued on the listing event. Ran Hua, the deputy mayor of the Nanjing local government, was among the attendees at the ceremony earlier this week.

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The bond issue supports “the development of Macau’s bond market infrastructure, financial industry and diversification of Macanese economy”, it said. The company also aims to build long term relationships with financial institutions in the city, and ultimately help support Macau’s role as a “financial servicing platform between China and Portugal”.

Lender Luso International Banking issued the first Hong Kong dollar-denominated bonds in Macau in December 2018, according to the exchange website. The Bank of China Macau branch issued the first pataca-denominated notes in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area that month.

China’s Ministry of Finance issued 2 billion yuan of bonds in July 2019, making it the first sovereign debt issued and listed in the city.

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