Hong Kong Government and Venture Capital
In the past few years, a growing trend of government involvement to boost entrepreneurship and innovation has been observed around the world. For example, key developments in the IT sector have risen from government funded R&D (Research and Development).
The Hong Kong government has also contributed a lot in this regard, especially via Venture Capital (VC) investments.
The ex-financial secretary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Antony Leung, said in a speech in 2002 that their strategic position provides outstanding opportunities, and VCs in the country have ideally been placed to take these opportunities.
Development of VC in Hong Kong
Venture Capital investments started in the 90s with the change in attitude of the Hong Kong’s government, as various reforms were made to the policies of the country toward IT development and innovation. Today, Hong Kong is considered one of the largest VC centers in Asia.
The government of Hong Kong has always been aware of the opportunities created by VCs. This is why a number of initiatives were taken by the government to further enhance the growth and development in the sector. Some of them have been mentioned below.
- VC Financing System
The financing system was formed by the government of Hong Kong to offer supplementary loans with a low rate of interest to VCs that are non-governmental and to provide guarantees for these loans.
- Direct Investment by the Government – Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC)
The government formed ITC in 2000 in order to make Hong Kong the knowledgeable and world-class economy. Another reason was to harmonize the creation and implementation of policies related to IT and innovation and to make sure there is synergy among them. ITC formulated different programs over the years, including the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF), the Applied Research Fund (ARF), and Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Program (SERAP). Moreover, it also contributed toward the development of IT infrastructure and human capital by introducing programs like the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTPC), the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC), New Technology Training Scheme, Internship Program and more.
- Provision of Legal Support
The government extended their efforts for the development of VC in the country by envisioning legislations as guarantees for the VC sector. Hong Kong has its own VC laws and does its best to stay compatible with Chinese laws related to VC. Some of the measures taken include Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Promotional Law, wherein, the government of China issued a number of opinions to guide and support the economic development of private and entrepreneurial businesses by introducing preferential measures for SME development; and Provisional Measures for the VC Enterprises Administration to make way for fund raising opportunities and to set forth several investors by offering a legal ground for VC firms to raise capital in a private manner.
- Adoption of Preferential Taxation Treatment
The VC firms in the Hong Kong were weak in raising capital due to their high risk nature coupled with low success rate. This is why the government formed a preferential taxation treatment by providing exemptions and reductions to back the VC development. A number of steps were taken in this regard, including Profits Tax Exemption for Offshore Funds that helped in bringing new offshore capital to the country, and Avoidance of Double Taxation between China and Hong Kong that decreased rate of tax on passive income, such as, royalties, interest payment, capital gains, and dividends for strengthening Hong Kong as the gateway of foreign investment into Mainland China.
Although, the government of Hong Kong took a large number of initiatives in the region, yet, they were criticized by some specialists who believed that the government could do more to support and improve VC industry. They are of the opinion that the government has kept its focus on later stage startups and businesses while ignoring the startups that are in their early stages, which caused lack of governance. Also, a very small proportion of that money was being invested in Hong Kong.
Current Status of the VC Industry in Hong Kong
In 2016, the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Leung Chun-Ying, announced HK$2 billion worth of capital in his policy address in order to boost the inflow of money in IT and innovation. It was the Innovation and Technology Venture Fund that aims to encourage increased funding from private VC in IT startups via a matching process. According to the Vice President of the Hong Kong Business Angel Network and managing director of Radiant Venture Capital, Duncan Chiu, the fund was issued to provide backing to early stage companies that struggle to raise capital for their business.
To conclude, Hong Kong is known to have the largest population of VC professionals in the region that manage more than 30 percent of the capital, and the government has been making a continuous effort to further strengthen the VC industry for the betterment of the overall Hong Kong economy.