Asia's debt market: a story of progress

China is driving Asia’s local-currency bond market, but Beijing needs to uphold the rule of law and develop a market-based system.

Back in 1994, when I first moved to Hong Kong, the debt capital markets in Asia excluding Japan were almost non-existent. The only way domestic issuers could raise financing was from the loan market, either domestically or offshore, or in the G3 currencies US dollar, euro or Japanese yen for the best of them. The few “bonds” were actually loan-style fixed-rated notes, syndicated primarily to banks.

There were a few reasons behind a dull bond market at that time. First, issuers, either state-owned or family-controlled companies, were reluctant to disclose their financials to be rated, because they were able to get plenty cheap financings from banks. At the same time,...

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