Charles Li tipped to join digital asset exchange

Business | 8 Jan 2021

Staff reporter

Charles Li Xiaojia is said to be joining local digital asset exchange HKbitEX after he stepped down as chief executive of Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (0388), according to a report by mainland media.

HKbitEX's founder Gao Han, cofounder Zuo Tao and chief development officer Shi Lin all have HKEx backgrounds.

Gao was previously the HKEx's head of China clients and marketing services, Zuo was a managing director at HKEX and Shi was the HKEX's former cohead of IPO vetting.

However, the story by government-backed media outlet Securities Times has since been removed from the outlet's website.

HKbitEX was founded in 2019, according to its website.

HKbitEX said it raised US$10 million (HK$78 million) from investors like Edvance International (1410) and Hanwha Asset Management.

Li has been appointed a senior advisor to the board of HKEx, while Calvin Tai Chi-kin is interim chief executive.

Li has said he is very likely to continue working in Central after bringing forward his retirement.

There is speculation Li will take up a government post after stepping down - but he indirectly denied any talk that he has eyes on the post of SAR chief executive.

Li said he considers Hong Kong, where he has lived for more than 26 years, homeHe also said that he will probably not work for another person and not leave Central and Exchange Square and that his passion will always be finance. Li is well known for enhancing the links between the mainland and Hong Kong markets with the Stock Connect and Bond Connect schemes.

He pushed through major reforms in the listing system to introduce companies with weighted voting rights, which has brought in tech giants like Xiaomi (1810), Meituan (3690) and Alibaba (9988), as well as biotech firms still in the research stage.

The failed bid to take over the London Stock Exchange in 2019 stands as a major misstep during Li's tenure, though chairwoman Laura Cha said Li's departure from HKEX is not related in any way to that.

The Beijing-born former investment banker joined the HKEX in 2010.

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