Lam said company owners expressed the same interest during his recent trip to Southeast Asia, and some Malaysian enterprises had planned to list in the city by the end of the year.
“If they are blue-chip stocks, they would consider dual-listing as they can bypass the entire Initial Public Offering (IPO) process. Mainland Chinese investors can purchase Hong Kong-listed stocks through Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, which not only helps stimulate the market but also makes it less boring,” Lam said.
“If the entire Southeast Asian market continues to invest and grow, I believe it presents a great opportunity for enhancing the overall liquidity in Hong Kong, benefiting our stock market as a whole.”
Asean, which has a population of more than 660 million, was Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner last year, with total merchandise trade amounting to HK$1.29 trillion (US$165 billion), accounting for 13.7 per cent of the city’s total, according to Trade and Industry Department figures.
Lam noted the city was still very attractive for foreign companies to conduct placement and fundraising, which had always been Hong Kong’s strength.
“That’s what the financial secretary and his team should focus on,” he noted.
Finance chief Paul Chan Mo-po established a 13-strong task force last month to thoroughly review factors behind the lacklustre stock market and to come up with measures to address structural issues. He also rolled out the “Night Vibes Hong Kong” campaign in a bid to reboot the city’s nightlife and economy.
Lam said the government should focus on the fundamentals and look at why residents were not willing to spend.
“The night economy requires innovative approaches to attract people who nowadays value the experience and opportunity to capture the moment for sharing on social media, such as savouring nostalgic delicacies like smelly tofu and white sugar cakes, which are no longer available.
“Night bazaars can’t be operated on a daily basis. By creating a sense of anticipation and excitement, you can make people look forward to these experiences,” said Lam, who is also a former director of the Tourism Board.
Ahead of the council’s “Think Business, Think Hong Kong” one-day symposium in Paris on Tuesday, the first such event since 2014, Lam stressed France had been a consistent driving force in Europe’s economy, with investments exceeding €50 billion (HK$417.5 billion) in areas such as green economy, healthcare and biotechnology and creative industries.
“The French government aims to create more business opportunities for local enterprises. These sectors align with Hong Kong’s strategic development focus and present significant advantages, offering potential for us to explore greater cooperation opportunities in the French market,” Lam said.
In 2022, France was the third-largest trading partner of Hong Kong within the EU, serving as the third-largest export destination and the second-largest import market.
In terms of investment, as of the end of 2021, France was the largest EU investor in Hong Kong, with total foreign direct investment amounting to HK$9.6 billion. The city was also the fifth most-popular investment destination in Asia for France.
As of 2022, there were more than 360 French companies operating in Hong Kong.
While geopolitical issues may pose challenges for potential investors, the primary task for Hong Kong is to ensure the stability of its stock market and promote its large-scale infrastructure projects to woo capital, according to Lam.
“Politicians care about their voters, while company shareholders care more about earnings and dividends. No one will argue with that. As a businessman, I will also leave if the stock market keeps declining,” Lam said.
He added foreign companies specialising in green technology and green economy would definitely be interested to invest in large-scale projects such as the Northern Metropolis.
“Some of them don’t even know there is such a project and the government should put more effort into telling the world about it.”
The metropolis, repackaged and expanded from an existing new town plan, involves an IT hub in the northern New Territories near the border with mainland China, yielding up to 186,000 homes and a new cross-border railway linking the city to the Qianhai economic zone in Shenzhen.