Wednesday, March 4, 2015

HSBC HK$150 anniversary banknote tipped for hyperinflation

Special HK$150 banknotes produced by HSBC to celebrate the bank's 150th anniversary are available for order from today - with a starting price of more than double the face value: at HK$380 for a single note.

One expert expects the price to more than double once the notes start changing hands, courtesy of mainland speculators.

Single HK$150 notes issued by Standard Chartered for its 150th anniversary in 2009 were trading for over HK$2,000 in 2012.

Two million of the HSBC notes will be available. People can apply for a maximum of three single notes, or one set of 3-in-1 uncut notes at HK$1,380, or one set of 35-in-1 uncut notes at HK$23,880. Profits will go to the Community Chest of Hong Kong and the Hongkong Bank Foundation charities.

Anyone, local resident or not, over the age of 18 has until March 21 to subscribe for a chance to buy the notes, both online or through drop-in boxes at any HSBC branch in Hong Kong.

An auction will also be held for banknotes - which are legal tender - that carry special serial numbers and prefixes.

The notes' design reflects the city's development over the years, with street scenes from the 1950s and the changing cityscape of Victoria Harbour. A smartphone app also allows users to see 3D animation effects.

"This banknote is the first to depict all four buildings that have been home to the bank here at 1 Queen's Road Central over the last 150 years," said HSBC Group chief executive Stuart Gulliver.

"And two old friends are also featured prominently on the notes, Stephen and Stitt, the lions that stand before the building," added Gulliver, who is facing a challenging anniversary year.

Last week, he was dragged personally into claims HSBC's Swiss private bank helped clients dodge tax, which tops what HSBC chairman Douglas Flint calls a "terrible list" of misdemeanours by the bank. Gulliver was revealed to have set up a Swiss account under the name of an offshore company over a decade ago, which he claimed was to keep bonus payments private.

The troubles have not dulled the anniversary celebrations, with a light show unveiled at its Central headquarters this week.

Applicants for the banknotes will have to wait until mid-April to find out if they have been successful. The notes will be available for collection from June.

Hong Kong Numismatic Society president Ma Tak-wo said there was a good chance the notes would fetch up to HK$1,000 as soon as they were collected.

"Whether the price will fly depends on the enthusiasm of mainland speculators, who make up about 80 per cent of the market," Ma said. "Many counterparts on the mainland told me they were interested."

Ma, however, does not expect the HSBC HK$150 notes to fetch as much Standard Chartered's due to the mainland's anti-graft campaign, which has seen prices of collectibles halve since 2012.

Courtesy Samuel Chan, South China Morning Post 04 March, 2015

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