Asia’s first spot bitcoin and ether ETFs gain in Hong Kong debut

By Thomson Reuters Apr 29, 2024 | 10:13 PM

By Summer Zhen

HONG KONG (Reuters) -Six spot bitcoin and ether exchange traded funds (ETFs) gained in their Hong Kong debut on Tuesday, with the three bitcoin ETFs climbing more than 3% in early trade, reflecting Asian investor enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies.

The debuts mark the first launch of spot cryptocurrency ETFs in Asia and come just three months after the U.S. launched its first ETFs to track spot bitcoin.

Spot bitcoin ETFs launched by China AMC, Harvest and Bosera had gained roughly 2.5% as of 2:21 GMT. The three ether ETFs managed by the asset managers also rose.

Bitcoin climbed about 1%.

Cryptocurrency is banned in mainland China, but Hong Kong has been promoting itself as a global digital asset hub, part of a drive to maintain its allure as a financial center.

Christina Choi, an executive director of the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), hailed the product debut as a milestone in Hong Kong’s ETF market, but also flagged risks.

“Virtual assets are quite speculative and very volatile … so I remind you that such assets are not suitable for all investors,” Choi told Tuesday’s launch event.

The ETF launch also put Hong Kong in direct competition with the United States for crypto investors.

The U.S. spot bitcoin ETFs have drawn roughly $12 billion in net inflows, contributing to a surge in bitcoin’s price earlier this year. But U.S. regulators have not yet approved ETFs that track spot ether prices.


Another difference is that Hong Kong’s crypto ETFs adopt the so-called “in-kind” transaction mechanism that allows investors to buy and sell ETF shares using the relevant crypto tokens instead of cash.

Such an option should be appealing to investors as token owners “may consider the benefit of holding through the ETFs without the cost of first converting to fiat (currency),” said Robert Zhan, risk consulting director at KPMG China.

Trading in Hong Kong’s crypto ETFs will be watched closely for signs that crypto flows could be drawn to Asia from the U.S.

Some analysts expect the majority of initial inflow will come from local retail investors given the cost concerns.

The management fee of the Hong Kong crypto spot ETFs, ranging between 0.3% to 0.99%, is much higher than the current U.S. listed ones, due to the limited number of regulated service providers under the city’s strict legal framework.

Currently Hashkey and OSL are the only two approved trading platforms in Hong Kong.

“If Hong Kong SFC approves more participants or trading platforms in the long run, it will make the costs lower and more competitive,” said Alex Chiu, senior strategist of ETF Business at Value Partners.

Bitcoin has gained roughly 50% this year and hit an all-time high of $73,803 in March. It was trading at around $62,944 on Tuesday. Ether has risen nearly 40% year-to-date.

(Reporting by Summer Zhen and Sam Shen; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Lincoln Feast.)