Banks, lawyers offer expertise

By Cecily Liu | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-14 08:31

London's banking sector is working hard to embrace financing activities along the routes of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Banks see the initiative as an opportunity to cement the city's financial strength amid the uncertainties surrounding Brexit.

UK bankers and lawyers have already helped to issue several tax-exempt Green Bonds, and Silk Road bonds, which channel international funds into infrastructure projects along the routes of the initiative.

The Chinese data company BBD has also launched a Belt and Road index in London.

HSBC estimates that Belt and Road development projects will cost up to $6 trillion in the next 15 years, while PwC estimates costs of $5 trillion. Last year, China directly invested $14.5 billion in projects linked with the initiative.

"London doesn't need to be on the Belt and Road map, but we would like to finance the Belt and Road map," said Sherry Madera, special adviser for Asia at the City of London Corporation.

London not only offers money, but also a concerted effort to homogenize Belt and Road infrastructure investment opportunities so the city's institutional investors can tap into projects with a clear understanding of any risks.

London has hosted the issue of several Green Bonds, with the latest being Bank of China's three-year $500 million China Green Covered Bond in November.

As a newly-emerging asset class, the proceeds are typically invested in energy and environmentally friendly infrastructure projects.

Bankers and lawyers are also engaged in discussions led by the International Capital Market Association to establish best practice guidelines for Silk Road bonds.

Although the bonds have so far only been issued in China, Mushtaq Kapasi, the association's chief Asia-Pacific representative, believes international financial centers could be potential locations for bond issuance.

"We believe it would make sense to issue a large number of Silk Road bonds overseas, because the proceeds could finance offshore projects along the Belt and Road," he said.

Helena Huang, China economist at ICBC Standard Bank, said London has a particular advantage for those raising funds via Silk Road bonds: "London's prominent role as the leading international financial center offers unparalleled access to global institutional investors, as well as a wide array of professional experts who specialize in project-financing businesses."

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