Global asset managers talk up China as long-term bet

HONG KONG (Reuters) -Top executives at global asset managers on Wednesday talked up China at an event in Hong Kong on Wednesday, championing long-term investment opportunities in an economy battling to break free of pandemic disruption.

While many multinational firms are working to spread risk away from China amid ongoing tension with the West, the country’s importance to the global marketplace is undeniable, they said at the Global Financial Leaders Investment Summit.

The head of BlackRock’s global client business, Mark Wiedman, told the summit that future investment in China is likely to be more driven by capital markets as individuals diversify savings away from property and term deposits.

“Those are big opportunities for us,” Wiedman said. “Long term, (China) has to be part of a global investment portfolio.”

Dozens of international executives took part in the event which began on Tuesday against a backdrop of economic slowdown in China where a massive debt crisis in the property sector has crippled some of its biggest firms and scared off investors.

Reflecting continued tension with the West, China recorded its first-ever quarterly deficit in foreign direct investment, while the European Chamber of Commerce criticised a recent trade fair as more “political showcase” than business event.

Still, the economy grew faster than analysts expected in the third quarter, improving the chance of the government meeting its growth target of around 5% for 2023 after the authorities introduced a string of support measures.

“If you lean into where the policies (are) going, you’ll have a better opportunity to benefit from investing in those areas,” Capital Group CEO Mike Gitlin said at the summit.

Similar comments highlighting investment opportunities came from other executives including HillHouse founder and chairman Lei Zhang, Fidelity International CEO Anne Richards and Invesco President and CEO Andrew Schlossberg.

Citadel Securities CEO Peng Zhao called China a driver of growth and innovation and said it was “baffling” to think otherwise.

He also said Citadel doubled its Hong Kong headcount in the face of pandemic-induced challenges, leveraging the talent the city hosts and its connectivity to other markets.

Trustar Capital CEO Zhang Yichen said multinational firms want to reduce China exposure but not exit.

At a Singapore forum on Wednesday, HSBC Group CEO Noel Quinn said his bank had seen a 70% lift in business from Chinese clients looking to diversify outside of mainland China.

Quinn told the Hong Kong event on Tuesday that wealth flow from mainland China to Hong Kong has grown 3 to 4 times this year.

(Reporting by Kane Wu, Xie Yu and Summer Zhen; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Christopher Cushing)