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May 17, 2024 Bloomberg,Media mentions

Hong Kong’s Shaky Crypto ETF Debuts Dent Global Hub Aspirations

  • The two-week old Bitcoin and Ether funds suffered outflows
  • They are meant to help catalyze a center for digital assets

By Sidhartha Shukla

The first Hong Kong exchange-traded funds investing directly in crypto have so far failed to spark the kind of excitement that greeted rival US products, a blow for the city’s push to foster a preeminent digital-asset hub.

Total assets at the batch of six Bitcoin and Ether ETFs have dropped about $25 million from the $293 million amassed when they debuted two weeks ago, reflecting in part investor outflows, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

In contrast, US spot-Bitcoin ETFs from the likes of BlackRock Inc. and Fidelity Investments were part of an historically successful launch for a fund category after going live in January. They have $12.1 billion in net inflows and almost $55 billion in assets, though demand for them has also cooled in recent weeks.

A final judgment on the fledgling Hong Kong products remains a long way off and must be calibrated against the city’s smaller financial sector compared to the US. Officials are hoping the ETFs will spur trading volumes and woo market makers as Hong Kong expands its roster of licensed digital-asset exchanges.

The first Hong Kong exchange-traded funds (ETFs) investing directly in crypto have so far failed to spark the kind of excitement that greeted rival US products, a blow for the city’s push to foster a preeminent digital-asset hub.

Total assets at the batch of six Bitcoin and Ether ETFs have dropped about $25 million from the $293 million amassed when they debuted two weeks ago, reflecting in part investor outflows, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Hong Kong Bitcoin, Ether ETFs Suffer Outflows

The city is vying with the likes of Singapore and Dubai to develop a crypto hub, part of a plan to project Hong Kong as a modern financial center following a crackdown on dissent that dulled its allure. The pivot seems to have the tacit backing of Beijing even as crypto trading remains banned on the mainland.

The Hong Kong launches have been “lukewarm” thus far, said Le Shi, head of trading at market making and algorithmic trading firm Auros. “Firstly, they got beaten to the punch by the US,” he said. “Secondly, there’s ongoing uncertainty about China’s intentions with regards to crypto, which is causing potential investors to tread carefully, or avoid the jurisdiction altogether.”

Harvest Global Investments Ltd., the local unit of China Asset Management, and a partnership between HashKey Capital Ltd. and Bosera Asset Management (International) Co. each listed Bitcoin and Ether ETFs in Hong Kong on April 30.

The funds are outside the scope of a program giving mainland Chinese investors access to some Hong Kong ETFs and it is unclear if that will ever change.

Bloomberg Intelligence ETF Analyst Rebecca Sin said there are positives to take away from the launches since total assets already exceed $250 million. More issuers will likely “join the race” as the ecosystem develops, said Sin, who sees the portfolios amassing $1 billion over two years.

The fanfare over US Bitcoin funds lifted the largest digital asset to a record of $73,798 in March. The token has since retreated about $8,000. ETF inflows could pick up if the crypto bull run that began last year finds a new lease of life.

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