Hong Kong has long attracted attention in the global property world due to the volatility of its real estate prices. Now, however, it has shot into the spotlight for another reason - property derivatives.
On the 27th Feb ABN Amro bank and Sun Hung Kai Financial announced that they had traded a property swap based on Hong Kong's residential market, marking the first such transaction ever to be done in Asia.
With the ink now dry on the Hong Kong deal, bankers are predicting that a similar deal could take place in Australia in the next three months, followed by another transaction in Singapore in the next six months, and transactions in Japan and Korea towards the end of the year.
That means that in a few months' time an investor may potentially be able to "buy" an office in Sydney, "sell" a retail store in London and "buy" a residential property in Hong Kong by placing just one phone call, bankers say.
If so, this will mark a striking turnround for a sector that some bankers believe could soon be an exciting new frontier for financial innovation, not just in Hong Kong but around the world.
2月27日，荷兰银行(ABN Amro)和新鸿基金融(Sun Hung Kai Financial)宣布，双方以香港住宅市场价格为基础，进行了一笔"房地产掉期"交易，这是亚洲首笔此类交易。
Until a couple of years ago, property derivatives existed only in theory. But in recent months the sector has started to grow rapidly: in the UK, which barely had a market two years ago, there have been more than 300 deals worth in total close to ￡5bn, according to figures from Investment Property Databank, the research firm. A number of transactions have been completed in the US and continental Europe, and bankers expect this to grow.
The inaugural transaction in Asia, at less than HK$100m ($13m), is small by global standards. But it comes amid growing appetite among cash-rich investors for new ways to invest in some of the world's fastest growing property sectors - that can also be alternatives to property stocks or real estate investment trusts, for example.
"Property is one of the hottest games in town and the potential for growth of property derivatives in Hong Kong is huge," says Philip Ljubic, a director of property derivatives at ABN Amro, which completed on the 27th Feb's transaction with Sun Hung Kai Financial.
In the Hong Kong transaction, traded as a one-year "price return swap," ABN Amro - the buyer of the derivative - gains exposure to the city's housing market by receiving the annual change in the HKU-HRPI, an index measuring the price of Hong Kong Island residential property. This index is one of the subsets of a series developed by the University of Hong Kong partly for this specific transaction.
数年前，房地产衍生品还只是存在于理论上。但研究机构Investment Property Databank公布的数据显示，最近几个月，房地产衍生品市场已开始迅速发展：在两年前市场刚刚形成的英国，迄今已达成逾300笔此类交易，价值近50亿英镑。美国和欧洲大陆也已达成了大量此类交易，银行业人士预计，此类交易数量将继续上升。
香港这笔房地产掉期交易属于一年期"价格回报掉期"。荷兰银行--此款衍生品的买家--通过获得HKU-HRPI年度变动率，得以投资香港住宅市场。HKU-HRPI是衡量香港住宅房地产价格的指数。该指数是由香港大学(University of Hong Kong)开发的一系列指数的分项指数，一定程度上特为此笔交易而开发。
Sun Hung Kai Financial - the seller of the derivative - receives a previously agreed basis point spread over HIBOR, the local risk-free lending rate.
People involved in the deal declined to reveal this spread.
The All Hong Kong Residential Price Index, a weighted average of the three sub indices including the HKU-HRPI, is offered at 650 basis points over HIBOR or roughly 10.5 per cent.
Property derivatives are popular because they, in effect, allow investors to take a view or speculate on a particular property sector without actually having to own the bricks and mortar.
"Another big advantage is time," says Mr Ljubic. "A physical transaction can take weeks while a property derivative, once liquidity is established, could take minutes."
Joseph Tong, chief executive officer for wealth management, capital markets and brokerage at Sun Hung Kai Financial, says: "Hong Kong has a very active property market and people get used to new financial instruments quickly. We expect there is going to be a sizeable growth potential for this product."
But there are challenges ahead. One of the reasons why the market has been slow to take off in some countries is that underlying data needs to be of a cast-iron calibre - as is the case in the UK.
It took about nine months to build the Hong index series while it took roughly 14 months to bring a Hong Kong property derivative transaction to market.
Stephen Moore, ead of property derivatives at GFI Colliers, the inter-dealer broker for the Hong Kong transaction, says his firm is working with the National University of Singapore to create residential indices for Singapore's housing market, and this week, residential indices were launched for Australia. Commercial indices for Australia are expected in the next six weeks.
He says: "The main issue with developing these products in the Asia-Pacific region, is that there are very few countries that have an adequate amount of transparency to develop credible and robust indices on which to trade...Without [a proper index], however, you cannot build a derivatives market."
全香港住宅价格指数(All Hong Kong Residential Price Index)是包括HKU-HRPI在内的三个分项指数的加权平均数。该指数相对于香港银行同业拆息的利差为650个基点，约合10.5%。
GFI Colliers房地产衍生品主管斯蒂芬o摩尔(Stephen Moore)表示，他的公司正与新加坡国立大学(National University of Singapore)合作，为新加坡住宅市场开发住宅指数。本周，澳大利亚推出了住宅指数。澳大利亚商业指数预计将在未来六周推出。GFI Colliers是香港此笔掉期交易的交易商之间的经纪人(IDB)。