What is MRF?
In 2015, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) and the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) announced the implementation of the Mainland-Hong Kong Mutual Recognition Funds (MRF). The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) developed the MRF scheme to act as a financial infrastructure for cross-border investments. Through the MRF, Hong Kong can gain access to international investors while the latter can increase exposure to Asian markets.
CSRC has so far approved a total of 1,500 investment funds in the mainland while SFC has approved about 450 in Hong Kong. MRF signifies a mutual opening of the capital market between Mainland China and Hong Kong. It aims to deepen and broaden the scope of the asset management industries. Thus, it is expected to enhance the competitiveness of fund management firms.
Shanghai– and Shenzhen– Hong Kong Stock Connects
China launched the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect in 2014, following the implementation of MRF. Three years later, it garnered a total of RMB 3.35 trillion (USD 509 billion) shares traded by international investors. The Hong Kong Exchange and Clearing (HKEX) reported HSBC and liquor maker Kweichow Moutai as the winners in mainland-Hong Kong stock connect trading with the most heavily traded stocks.
On the other hand, the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect established in 2016 gained RMB 705 billion worth of overseas traded stocks within that year.
Also, check out London Shanghai Stock Connect – What to Expect
These two connect schemes provide the venue in which international investors can trade eligible stocks in Shanghai or Shenzhen via any licensed broker provided by HKEX. At the same time, mainland investors have the means to trade through HK-listed stocks.
The Shanghai– and Shenzhen– Hong Kong Stock connects are called Northbound Trading. On the other hand, Southbound Trading refers to Hong Kong. In these connect schemes, Hong Kong and overseas investors can trade eligible stock exchange securities (SES) with mainland investors.
The stock- and bond- trading links with Hong Kong have paved the way for a much easier buy and sell of assets. Therefore, foreign investors can continue to enjoy these trade and investment initiatives.
Tax breaks for investors
On August 30, 2018, the State Council announced a three-year exemption from corporate income tax (CIT), withholding tax (WHT) and value-added tax (VAT). This mainly benefited overseas institutional investors. The MOF and the State Taxation Administration (STA) issued Circular 108 (财税(2018) 108号 on November 22 in the same year, following the State announcement. Through this circular, foreign investors can get access to various investment channels through China’s capital markets. These include:
- China Inter-Bank Market (“CIBM”)
- Stock exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen through the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors (“QFII”) and RMB Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors (“RQFII”)
- CIBM for qualified financial institutions via the Mainland-Hong Kong Bond Connect program
The WHT (10%) and VAT (6%) exemptions were applied to overseas investors from November 7, 2018, and will continue until November 6, 2021. This year, mainland retail investors are expected to get tax relief through the MRF scheme. Hence, they will also benefit from the Shanghai– and Shenzhen– Hong Kong connects. The linkages enable mainland and Hong Kong investors to directly trade qualified funds in each other’s markets.