LawFlash

China Expands RQFII Program to Boost Chinese Mainland Capital Market and Hong Kong Fund Market

March 18, 2013

中国扩大RQFII试点,力推中国大陆资本市场和香港基金市场的发展

On March 1, 2013, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (the “CSRC”), the State Administration of Foreign Exchange and the People's Bank of China, aiming to further promote Renminbi (“RMB”) internationalisation, deepen the Chinese Mainland capital markets and support Hong Kong as an international financial center, substantially expanded the Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (“RQFII”) program, by promulgating the Pilot Measures on Securities Investment in Mainland China by Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors (the “New RQFII Measures”). On the same day, to support the implementation of the New RQFII Measures, the CSRC promulgated the Provisions on the Implementation of the Pilot Measures on Securities Investment in Mainland China by Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors (together with the New RQFII Measures, collectively, the “New RQFII Law”).

The RQFII program has been popular with market players and investors since its inception in December 2011. The total RQFII investment quota has now reached RMB 270 billion (approximately USD 43.4 billion). However, the RQFII regime has lagged behind market needs and investment trends, especially compared to the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (“QFII”) program.

The New RQFII Law supersedes certain of the regulations published in 2011 in relation to the RQFII program (the “2011 Regulations) and implements various changes. In particular, the New RQFII Law expands (i) the scope of RQFII eligible institutions, (ii) the geographic source of RMB funds that may be used by RQFIIs for their investments in China, and (iii) the types of investments that may be made by RQFIIs. This alert will briefly introduce the major changes effected by the New RQFII Law.

  1. Expansion of Eligible RQFII Institutions

Under the 2011 Regulations, only Hong Kong subsidiaries of Chinese fund management companies and securities companies were eligible to receive a license and quota under the RQFII program. The New RQFII Law expands the scope of eligible institutions to further include: (i) Hong Kong subsidiaries of Chinese commercial banks and insurance companies, and (ii) other financial institutions that are registered and mainly operated in Hong Kong (regardless of where their parents are incorporated). The New RQFII Law also provides that the list of the types of Chinese institutions that may participate through their Hong Kong subsidiaries is not an exhaustive list.1

Although entities eligible to receive an RQFII license and quota must still be Hong Kong registered institutions, the RQFII program is now effectively open to a much wider range of eligible participants, particularly given that almost all prominent international financial institutions have subsidiaries in Hong Kong. RQFIIs will need to hold an appropriate license from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (“HKMA”) or the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (“SFC”) depending on the nature of their activities. For example, in order to provide asset management services to a fund, a Type 9 license from the SFC to carry on asset management activities will be required.

Among the various changes to the qualifications applicable to RQFII applicants, the New RQFII Law clarifies that RQFII applicants do not need to have been in business for at least three years. It is now stipulated that RQFII applicants must not have been subject to any severe penalty by regulatory authorities in their jurisdiction during the previous three years or, if shorter, the period since the RQFII’s establishment.

  1. Expansion in Geographic Source of RMB Funds

Under the 2011 Regulations, only RMB funds “raised in Hong Kong” could be used for investment in the Chinese securities markets under the RQFII program. The New RQFII Law provides that RQFIIs can now “use” RMB funds outside of China for the purposes of investing in the Chinese securities markets.

  1. Harmonization of QFII program and RQFII program
  1. Permitted Investments

Under the 2011 Regulations, RQFIIs were required to ensure that at least 80% of the funds was invested in bonds and other fixed income securities and no more than 20% of the funds was invested in stocks or stocks investment funds. This requirement was not enforced in relation to RQFII ETFs established under the second phase of the RQFII program from April 2012, and has now been eliminated under the New RQFII Law. RQFIIs can now invest in the same types of products as QFIIs and therefore the products eligible for investment by RQFIIs (and QFIIs) now include:

  • Stocks, bonds and warrants traded or transferred on the Shanghai and Shenzhen Securities Exchanges (the “Stock Exchanges”);2
  • Fixed income products traded in the Inter-bank Bond Market;
  • Securities investment funds;
  • Stock index futures; and
  • Other financial instruments approved by the CSRC from time to time.

Other restrictions on securities investments in Mainland China by RQFIIs are also identical to those applicable to QFIIs. With respect to investment in stocks of listed Chinese companies, the ceiling for the shareholding of a single foreign investor in the total share capital of a listed Chinese company is 10%, and the ceiling for aggregate shareholdings of all foreign investors in the “A” shares of a listed Chinese company is 30%.3

  1. Engagement of Multiple Securities Companies

Although RQFIIs and QFIIs have been theoretically allowed to engage up to three securities companies to trade securities in each of the Stock Exchanges, in practice they were able to engage only one securities company in each Stock Exchange due to the requirement that an RQFII or QFII was required by the CSRC to maintain a one-to-one correspondence of its securities account with its special RMB account.4 On July 27, 2012, the CSRC amended the QFIIs program to enable QFIIs to engage multiple securities companies by abandoning the “one-to-one correspondence” rule. The New RQFII Law implements an equivalent change for RQFIIs in this regard.5

  1. Removal of Requirements Imposed on Chinese Parents of RQFIIs

Under the 2011 Regulations, the Chinese parent companies of RQFIIs were required to meet certain specific requirements. For example, (i) the Chinese parent of an RQFII applicant was required to hold a Chinese securities asset management business license, (ii) the Chinese parent of an RQFII was required to strengthen its risk management over its RQFII subsidiary, and (iii) certain information about the parent of an RQFII applicant (in addition to the shareholding structure of the RQFII applicant) was required to be disclosed when the RQFII applicant applied for its RQFII license and quota. The CSRC appears to have changed its perspective and has removed these requirements. In light of these changes, the current administrative burdens imposed on RQFIIs (and their parents) by the Chinese regulators are broadly similar to those applicable to QFIIs (and their parents).

  1. Ancillary Issues

The New RQFII Law does not affect RQFII-related foreign exchange control matters and other ancillary issues (such as issues related to RMB fund accounts of RQFIIs). The existing ancillary regulations are not fully consistent with the New RQFII Law. For instance, the “one-to-one correspondence” discussed in above Item C (ii) is also set forth in the Notice on Issues Concerning the Depository and Clearing Business Related to Domestic Securities Investment by RMB Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors of Fund Management Companies and Securities Companies effective as of February 15, 2012. We expect that the CSRC will coordinate with other regulators to fully effect and facilitate the changes brought by the New RQFII Law in due course.

Conclusion

The New RQFII Law is expected to further boost the Chinese Mainland’s capital markets and the Hong Kong asset management sector, by strengthening the capacity of the RQFII program to compete with other similar programs.


中国扩大RQFII试点,力推中国大陆资本市场和香港基金市场的发展

为了进一步促进人民币(“人民币”)国际化、深化中国大陆资本市场对外开放、支持香港国际金融中心地位,中国证券监督管理委员会(“中国证监会”)、国家外汇管理局和中国人民银行于2013年3月1日颁布了《人民币合格境外机构投资者境内证券投资试点办法》 (“RQFII办法”),旨在进一步扩大人民币合格境外机构投资者(“RQFII”)计划。同日,为支持新RQFII办法的实施,中国证监会颁布了《关于实施<人民币合格境外机构投资者境内证券投资试点办法>的规定》(与新RQFII办法,统称“RQFII新规”)。

RQFII试点自2011年12月推出以来就受到市场和投资者的青睐。RQFII总投资额度已达2700亿元人民币(约合434亿美元)。但是,RQFII试点仍旧落后于市场需求和投资趋势,特别是与合格境外机构投资者(“QFII”)计划相比。

RQFII新规对2011年颁布的有关RQFII法规(“2011年旧规”)做出了各项修订,并取代2011年旧规。特别是,RQFII新规(1)扩大了RQFII合格试点机构类型;(2)放宽了对RQFII境内投资所用人民币资金来源的地域限制;以及(3)扩大了RQFII投资范围。本文旨在概述RQFII新规所做出的主要修订。

  1. 扩大RQFII合格试点机构类型

根据2011年旧规,仅有境内基金管理公司、证券公司的香港子公司有条件申请RQFII资格和投资额度。RQFII新规将合格试点机构范围扩大到包括(1)境内商业银行和保险公司香港子公司;以及(2)注册地及主要经营地在香港地区的金融机构(而无论其母公司注册地)。此外,RQFII新规以非穷尽方式列举了可以通过香港子公司参与试点的中国机构类型1

尽管有条件申请RQFII资格和投资额度的实体仍旧必须是在香港注册的机构,但由于大型国际金融机构几乎无一例外都在香港注册有子公司,RQFII试点实际上已向更大范围的合格机构开放。取决于业务性质,RQFII需要持有香港金融管理局(“金管局”)或香港证券及期货事务监察委员会(“香港证监会”)授予的资格。例如,为了向基金提供资产管理服务,RQFII需要取得香港证监会颁发的资产管理业务(第9类)牌照。

RQFII新规修改了RQFII申请人的资格要求,包括澄清RQFII申请人不必满足经营至少3年的规定。RQFII新规现在要求申请人最近3年或者自成立起未受到所在地监管部门的重大处罚。

  1. 放宽对人民币资金来源的地域限制

2011年旧规规定RQFII只能使用“在香港筹集”的人民币资金根据RQFII试点进行境内证券投资。RQFII新规规定RQFII可以使用来自中国境外的人民币资金用于中国境内证券投资。

  1. QFII试点与RQFII试点的接轨
  1. 允许的投资范围

根据2011年旧规,RQFII须确保其资金中,有不少于80%的资金投资于债券和其它固定收益证券,且有不多于20%的资金投资于股票及股票类基金。在自2012年4月份启动的RQFII第二阶段试点中,对RQFII ETF未执行上述资产配置要求,而RQFII新规现已取消了此要求。RQFII的投资范围放宽到与QFII的投资范围相同。因此,RQFII(和QFII)可以投资的产品包括:

  • 在上海证券交易所和深圳证券交易所(“证交所”)交易或转让的股票、债券和权证2
  • 在银行间债券市场交易的固定收益产品;
  • 证券投资基金;
  • 股指期货;以及
  • 中国证监会不时允许的其它金融工具

RQFII所适用的境内证券投资其他限制亦与QFII所适用的境内证券投资限制相同,亦即单个境外投资者对单个上市公司的持股比例不得超过该上市公司股份总数的10%,所有境外投资者对单个上市公司A股的持股比例总和不得超过该上市公司股份总数的30%3

  1. 委托多家证券公司

虽然RQFII和QFII在理论上就可以分别在每个交易所委托不超过3家境内证券公司进行证券交易,实践中,中国证监会要求RQFII和QFII的证券账户与其人民币特殊账户保持一一对应关系,因此它们在每个交易所仅能委托一家证券公司4。2012年7月27日,中国证监会对QFII试点规定进行修订,取消了一一对应要求,使得QFII可以委托多家证券公司。在此方面,RQFII新规就RQFII进行了对应的修改5

  1. 取消了对RQFII境内母公司资格的要求

根据2011年旧规,RQFII境内母公司需要满足特定具体要求,例如:(1)RQFII申请人境内母公司需要持有中国证券资产管理业务资格;(2)RQFII境内母公司需要加强对RQFII子公司的风险管理;以及(3)RQFII申请人在申请RQFII资格和投资额度时(除了提供RQFII申请人的股权结构之外)需要披露其境内母公司的某些资料。中国证监会似乎转变了看法,取消了上述要求。鉴于这些修改,中国监管部门对RQFII(及其母公司)规定的行政负担总体上与QFII(及其母公司)的相类似。

  1. 附属问题

RQFII新规未影响RQFII外汇管制和其它附属问题(例如RQFII人民币资金账户问题等)。现行附属规定与RQFII新规不完全一致。例如,以上第C(ii)项所述的“一一对应”关系在2012年2月15日生效的《关于基金管理公司、证券公司人民币合格境外机构投资者境内证券投资登记结算业务有关事项的通知》中亦有规定。预期,中国证监会适时会与其它监管部门协调,全面反映并落实RQFII新规所带来的变化。

结论

预期,RQFII新规将增强RQFII与其它类似试点项目进行竞争的能力,而进一步推进中国大陆资本市场和香港资产管理业的发展。

Contacts

If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Beglin-Brian
Ye-Xiaowei

1 The term used in the New RQFII Law is “Hong Kong subsidiaries of Chinese fund management companies, securities companies, commercial banks, insurance companies, etc.”

2 RQFIIs (and QFIIs) are allowed to subscribe for initial public offerings of stocks, offerings of convertible bonds, and follow-on offerings of stocks and subscription of allocated stocks.

3 Neither the 10% nor the 30% ceiling applies to strategic investments made according to the Administrative Measures for Foreign Investors’ Strategic Investment in Listed Companies.

4 Previously, each RQFII (or QFII) was permitted to open only one special RMB account in Mainland China. Since a securities account of an RQFII (or QFII) in respect of a Stock Exchange was required to correspond with only one special RMB account, an RQFII (or QFII) was able to open only one securities account for each Stock Exchange and therefore could only engage one securities company to manage such securities account.

5 Certain elements of the existing regulations issued by the Chinese regulators other than the CSRS will need to be updated to fully implement this change – see item D.

1 RQFII新规规定“境内基金管理公司、证券公司、商业银行、保险公司等香港子公司”。

2 RQFII(和QFII)都可以参与新股发行、可转换债券发行、股票增发和配股的申购。

3 根据《外国投资者对上市公司战略投资管理办法》对上市公司进行战略投资的,其战略投资持股比例不受上述10%和30%限制。

4 以往,法规只允许每个RQFII(或QFII)在境内开立一个人民币特殊账户。由于法规要求每个RQFII(或QFII)为每个证交所开立的证券账户只与一个人民币特殊账户建立一一对应关系,每个RQFII(或QFII)仅能够为每个证交所开立一个证券账户,因此,仅能委托一家证券公司管理该证券账户。

5 中国证监会之外的中国其它监管部门颁布的现行规定中有些内容需要更新,以充分落实上述修改。请参见 D。

This article was originally published by Bingham McCutchen LLP.