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Opinion

HSBC’s long, long wait for JV approval finally comes good

HSBC’s Sino-foreign joint venture has been approved at last, almost two years after the project was announced. It is the first such venture to have foreign control but what exactly has HSBC won?

Approval for HSBC to launch its groundbreaking joint venture in China – the first to have a foreign-held majority – has been a long time coming.

HSBC first announced the JV, with local partner Shenzhen Qianhai Financial Holdings, in November 2015 — so long ago that its partner has since changed its name, dropping the ‘Shenzhen’, and the announcement appears to have vanished from HSBC’s site. The only remaining trace is Stuart Gulliver’s comment during the 2015 results two Februaries ago that “subject to approvals, the joint venture will be operational during the second half of this year”. When it finally opens at the end of 2017, it will therefore have taken a year longer than expected.

Still, it got there, and just in time for the 20th anniversary of the Handover. And, though the thunder of it all has been very much dissipated by the passage of time, it remains an important step.

The world of Sino-foreign JVs has always come with caveats, so it should be noted that both Goldman Sachs and UBS have had operational control of their experimental early ventures while not having majority ownership. Nevertheless, the HSBC venture marks a first.

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