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Local brokers train sights on Japanese tourists
17 July 2009

Japanese tourists visiting Hong Kong usually like to splurge on expensive handbags and cosmetics before enjoying high tea at the Peninsula hotel. They can now add trading stocks to their holiday "to do" list.

As well as enjoying the ride on the Peak Tram and the Star Ferry, increasing numbers of Japanese tourists are taking time out to open stock-trading accounts, brokers say. Of particular interest to them are Chinese stocks listed in Hong Kong.

The rising interest has prompted local brokerages to hire Japanese-speaking salespeople targeting tourists and expatriates.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing chief executive Paul Chow Man-yiu and a group of listed companies this week completed a series of annual seminars with Japanese retail and institutional investors about investment in the city's market. The exchange has teamed up with Daiwa Securities for the event since 2002.

Besides Tokyo-based firms such as Nomura or Daiwa that have long traded for Japanese based in Hong Kong, many local brokers are now gearing up to target the Japanese tourist market, hoping for the same high reward they have received from stock-hungry mainland tourists.

Large numbers of mainland tourists have opened stock-trading accounts while visiting Hong Kong over the past few years. They then trade over the internet when they return home. Hong Kong regulations require retail investors to open accounts with a brokerage in person.

Taifook Securities Group, among those serving the mainland tourist market, is one of the first local brokerages to add Japanese tourists and expatriates to their client lists. Two months ago, it set up a Japanese desk at its Central headquarters with Japanese-speaking salespeople and some native Japanese to liaise with clients.

Taifook aims to have 1,000 Japanese clients by the end of this year after signing up about 100 Japanese investors already.

"Some Japanese travellers have added opening securities accounts as part of their tours in Hong Kong," said deputy chief executive William Lee Yiu-wing. "We have launched a Japanese-language online platform where we provide them with Japanese-language research reports and news updates."

He said Japanese clients were particularly keen on trading H shares and red chips, as they believed in China's economic growth story.

Taifook has also partnered local Japanese brokerages to refer clients. The strategy might be expanded to draw South Korean investors, he said.

"With the internet trading platform, we can serve clients around the world. They can live on the mainland, in Japan, Korea or the United States and Europe. About 70 per cent of trading comes from the internet and the rest from the traditional way of broking," Mr Lee said.

Sun Hung Kai Financial also has a Japanese-speaking team to serve Japanese fund managers and retail investors. "The Japanese stock market has not performed well in the past few years," said Joseph Tong Tang, the executive director and chief executive of Sun Hung Kai.

"It is natural for Japanese retail and institutional investors to trade Chinese stocks in Hong Kong as they can provide a good return."
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