The long lunch is coming to an end for Hong Kong’s stockbrokers.
The Chinese territory’s stock exchange, which has one of the shortest trading days among the world’s major markets, plans to halve its two-hour lunch break over the next two years.
It also plans to start trading half an hour earlier in a bid to raise its competitiveness with its counterpart on the Chinese mainland, the Shanghai stock exchange, as well as regional rivals.
The plans will bring the Hong Kong exchange’s trading hours more in line with Shanghai’s so there’s less chance for investors to exploit the trading time differences between the two – differences that would increasingly favour Shanghai as its market gradually opens to more foreign participation.
Over the years, the Hong Kong exchange has become increasingly reliant on business from China, with more than two-thirds of trading turnover coming from its listings of mainland-based companies.
Many Chinese stocks are traded in both Shanghai and Hong Kong and as the number rises, “investors in the Hong Kong market can only react to market news after their counterparts in the mainland market”, which may prevent stocks from being sold at fair prices, a consultation document on the proposed changes said.
Not everyone is happy about the latest proposed changes. Brokerage staff say that contrary to popular belief, they do not use their two-hour break for boozy, leisurely lunches. Instead, the time is used to meet executives from publicly traded companies or to attend presentations on initial public offerings.
“I normally need a two-hour lunch to do an adequate job,” said Francis Lun, general manager of Fulbright Securities. “I don’t go out and enjoy a very liquid lunch, I don’t get drunk. For me it’s a working lunch.”
Currently, trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange starts at 10am and stops at 12.30pm for two hours before closing for the day at 4pm, a total of four hours.
Tokyo’s stock exchange has said it too plans to cut its lunch break by half an hour to 60 minutes. In Britain, France and Germany, the major stock markets are open for at least eight-and-a-half hours, while the US market is open for six-and-a- half hours. None close for lunch.