6 July 2009
Investors who bought Lehman Brothers minibonds will receive compensation even if they have more than HK$8 million in investments - as long as they have not signed any documents describing themselves as professional investors, the Monetary Authority executive director says.
Raymond Li Ling-cheung's comments yesterday came after a number of minibonds buyers raised questions over whether they would be eligible for a payout under a deal agreed with 16 Hong Kong banks which sold minibonds guaranteed by Lehman Brothers.
In the days since the announcement of the settlement, which applies only to buyers classified as "individual investors", the definition of "professional investor" has been widely debated. Those who had made five or more investments in structured products such as minibonds over the past five years would be considered professionals. Corporate investors would not be covered by the settlement.
Mr Li moved to clear up some of the questions yesterday.
"The definition of professional investors is very clear in the law," he said. "It does not say you must be a professional investor when you have HK$8 million in the bank.
"If the bank classifies you as professional investor, an agreement should follow and the bank must tell you that you are classified as a professional investor and obtain your approval. It is not mandatory to say you are a professional investor when you have HK$8 million.
"If you want to know whether you're classified as a professional investor or not, you had better ask the bank."
The Securities and Futures Commission, the Monetary Authority and 16 distributing banks jointly announced on Wednesday that they had reached an agreement in relation to the compensation payout of Lehman Brothers-linked minibonds from eligible customers.
The agreement means that 90 per cent of investors will get backup to 70 per cent of their money. The banks will repay at least HK$6.3 billion to 29,000 people who bought minibonds in what is likely to be the world's largest compensation package for retail investors.
More than 33,000 Hong Kong investors bought HK$12 billion worth of high-risk minibonds that became virtually worthless when Lehman collapsed last September.
Minibonds are not corporate bonds, but consist of high-risk credit-linked derivatives. They are marketed as a proxy investment in well-known companies.
The banks will send letters to investors next month, the investors will have 60 days to decide if they want to accept the deal. Those aged under 65 will receive 60 per cent of the value of their initial investment. Those over 65 will get 70 per cent back.
The Democratic Party will meet with minibonds investors today to discuss progress on the issue.
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