3 August 2009
The buy-back package for Lehman Brothers minibonds should be extended to cover equity-linked notes (ELNs), 300 investors demanded yesterday when they met lawmakers.
The investors, mostly middle-aged, argued that as with minibonds, banks had used misleading promotional methods to sell ELNs and they were lured into buying the high-risk financial instruments, thinking there were no risks.
ELNs are investment products linked to the performance of some stocks. For most banks, the minimum investment was HK$500,000.
Investors were promised 10 to 30 per cent interest in the first month, and 4 to 20 per cent thereafter, depending on the performance of stocks. They should have been able to redeem the principal by the end of the investment period, which was usually a year.
Lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the government and banks did not plan to buy back ELNs as most were bought by experienced investors who should have known the risk.
But the investors said they were just regular customers who had bought the products over the counter.
Retiree Ms Wong lost HK$500,000 after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt.
"They said the product was tailor-made for me. I trusted the bank, so I did not check the contract in detail," she said.
She had received about eight interest installments in the past two years, at an average of 12 per cent. But she said the product was now worthless. "If the bank staff had mentioned to me any one of the items in fine print, or that the product was risky, I would not have bought it."
In an earlier announcement, 16 banks promised to pay back at least HK$6.3 billion to 29,000 people who bought Lehman Brothers minibonds.
A government spokesman said the Monetary Authority and the Securities and Futures Commission should now focus on handling complaints about non-minibond structural products, such as ELNs. "The regulators will not tolerate any mis-selling conduct."
Fewer than 40 per cent of local investors are interested in buying Hong Kong government bonds or other bonds, an opinion poll by the Hong Kong Institute of Investors and the Investor Interest Concern Group found.
The findings came from a survey of 866 investors, conducted between June 6 and July 25. Of these, 38 per cent said they were interested in buying Hong Kong government bonds, with 62 per cent saying they were not.
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