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Hong Kong Stock Exchange bids farewell to first woman chair

Hong Kong (AFP) – ‘Iron Lady’ Laura Cha concluded on Wednesday her six-year chairmanship as the first helmswoman of Hong Kong’s ailing stock exchange, which has suffered a plunge in overall trading under her leadership.

Cha, 74, has reached the two-term limit but will remain an independent director of Chinese fintech giant Ant Group and a top trading policy advisor for Hong Kong and Beijing.

“It’s been a privilege and an honour to have presided over this great organisation over the past six years,” Cha said at the Hong Kong Exchange annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday.

Cha, who is known as an “iron lady” among Chinese and Hong Kong finance regulators for her bold manner, lauded a slew of “milestone initiatives” launched under her leadership, including the enhancement of cross-border trading schemes, listing franchises, and product diversification.

But the city’s stock exchange has experienced a decline in initial public offerings (IPOs) since 2020, after Beijing’s regulatory crackdown led some Chinese mega-companies to put their listing plans on hold.

The exchange reported a 22 per cent year-on-year drop in average daily trading in the first quarter of 2024, pushing revenue down 12 per cent year-on-year.

The HKD4.8 billion (USD613 million) raised by 12 new listings in the first quarter was also down 28 per cent compared to last year.   

Cha has long pushed for Hong Kong’s integration with the mainland Chinese market.

Under her leadership from 2018, market share of Chinese companies in Hong Kong’s stock exchange increased by nearly 10 per cent to more than 77 per cent.

A woman walks past a Hong Kong Stock Exchange sign in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AFP