GBA News: 11/11/2021

No respite for Evergrande: China Evergrande Group is facing another US$366 million in interest payments on its onshore and offshore debt – some already overdue – by the end of this year, after narrowly staving off default once again with a series of last-minute coupon payments on Wednesday.It is just a small portion of the cascading amount of debt payments set to come due in the coming months for the world’s most indebted property developer.The Shenzhen-based company has 1.97 trillion yuan (US$308 billion) in total debt outstanding. SCMP

Another HK university chief leaving: The president of City University will not be renewing his contract in 2023, with the institution’s vice-president announcing an international search for his replacement. The news that Professor Way Kuo, who has been with CityU for over 13 years, would be quitting his post as head of the institution came just two days after the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology announced its president, Professor Wei Shyy, would be stepping down 11 months before his contract was set to end. SCMP

HK poverty numbers jump: Almost a quarter of Hongkongers would have lived in poverty last year without government aid, new statistics show. The number who would have fallen below the official poverty line without assistance was 1.65 million or 23.6 per cent of the population, the highest in 12 years. This was reduced to 7.9 per cent after government subsidies, meaning around 554,000 people actually lived below the poverty line last year. HKFP

HK power bills set to soar: Hong Kong’s two power companies will be under tremendous pressure to raise the price of electricity as the city moves to become carbon neutral by 2050 and residents should brace for double-digit increases in the future, analysts warn. But the city could create some breathing room when its own offshore liquefied natural gas terminal is completed next year, which will give the companies the option of casting a wider net for sources rather than relying solely on mainland China, one expert said. SCMP

HK housing woes deepen: The average waiting time for a public housing flat in Hong Kong has edged upwards to 5.9 years, despite a long-standing Housing Authority pledge to allocate homes to applicants in no more than three. The wait, the longest it has been in 22 years, grew by more than a month in the third quarter of this year, according to official figures released by the Housing Authority on Thursday. The statistics, released every quarter, are used as a reference for current applicants, and are based on data collected from those who received public flats in the past 12 months. SCMP

HK firm launches crypto insurance: Hong Kong virtual insurer OneDegree has partnered with cryptocurrency exchange Hong Kong Digital Asset Exchange (HKbitEX) to offer insurance for cryptocurrencies, as they try to address concerns holding back institutional investors from investing in the US$3 trillion asset class. OneDegree will offer up to US$100 million in coverage to HKbitEX, insuring it against theft and the hacking of cryptocurrencies put in its custody by clients. It is the first insurer in Asia to underwrite insurance policies for digital assets, a service that has only recently become available for players in the virtual asset sector through specialist insurers based primarily in the United Kingdom and Bermuda. SCMP

Macau urged to award direct licenses: The Macau government should consider an amendment to the gaming law to provide for the possibility of directly awarding the casino gaming concessions to the current casino operators, according to gaming legal expert Antonio Lobo Vilela. Under the current legal and regulatory framework on casino gaming, granting casino gaming concessions by a direct award is not allowed, unlike all other types of permitted gambling in Macau. The Macau government had long announced that it would open a public (international) tender for the award of the casino gaming concessions, which are set to expire in June 2022. However, Vilela says it is obvious that the government will not reduce or add licences, and therefore it would be most efficient to dispense with the need to run a tender. MDT

Macau wants overseas Chinese: The new Regime for the Attraction of Qualified Personnel will aim to draw qualified Chinese people who are currently living overseas to live and work in Macau, the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Elsie Ao Ieong revealed yesterday during a press conference on the draft system. Questioned by the media on whether the government already has a list of preferred people to occupy such positions, Ao Ieong said, “We would like to attract the overseas Chinese to come to Macau.” The Secretary also added that while there is no specific list of roles that the government is aiming to attract, she noted that there are several “specialists that we know can satisfy our [objectives],” since the government already previously engaged with these candidates and consequently holds existing knowledge of their suitability. However, she confirmed that these people are “obviously not my friends.” MDT

Macau tracking app ready soon: The mobile app version of the Macao Health Code, together with a contact tracing function, should be ready by the end of this month, Health Bureau (SSM) Director Alvis Lo Iek Long has announced. The health chief underlined that after the new function is launched, Macao Health Code users can choose whether or not to scan the QR codes placed at premises they are visiting. He reaffirmed that users’ travel history records will only be stored on their smartphones after they scan the QR codes, and will not be uploaded onto the bureau’s database. MN

Dongguan’s leading science project to expand: The China Spallation Neutron Source, located in Songshan Lake, Dongguan, is preparing for its second phase of construction. The number of spectrometers at the park, which is China’s China’s first, and the world’s fourth, neutron source facility, will be expanded to about 20. Moreover, the target power will be increased from 100 kW to 500 kW, which means that under the same experimental accuracy, the data collection time is 1/5 of the original. This also means smaller samples can be studied and faster processes observed, providing a more advanced research platform for cutting-edge scientific research. DGT (Read background on the project here.)

Qianhai focuses on international talent: Qianhai, the special zone in Shekou, Shenzhen, will open an “International Talent Port” early next year, aiming to attract “global scientific and technological innovation talents”. Qianhai is the first zone in the country to exempt Hong Kong and Macao residents from obtaining employment permits, and it is the first to have launched tax subsidies for “overseas high-end talents”. Under this scheme, it has reportedly  gathered more than 6,000 overseas talents and 577 “high-level talents”. SZN

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