China's new free trade zone will not allow London Metal Exchange warehouses: source

A general view of the new Shanghai Free Trade Zone in Pudong district, Shanghai on Sept 29, 2013. China will retain a ban on overseas commodity exchanges setting up warehouses in the country, a government source said, dashing expectations for Lo
A general view of the new Shanghai Free Trade Zone in Pudong district, Shanghai on Sept 29, 2013. China will retain a ban on overseas commodity exchanges setting up warehouses in the country, a government source said, dashing expectations for London Metal Exchange (LME) warehouses in the newly launched Shanghai free trade zone. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (REUTERS) - China will retain a ban on overseas commodity exchanges setting up warehouses in the country, a government source said, dashing expectations for London Metal Exchange (LME) warehouses in the newly launched Shanghai free trade zone.

Although the LME has been cautious about its chances, state-owned local media had reported that the exchange would be allowed to authorise commodity warehouses in the free-trade zone, while warehousing facilities did not appear on a list of banned activities.

Bringing the centuries-old bourse to China was one of the major rationales the Hong Kong stock exchange gave last year for its US$2.2 billion (S$2.7 billion) acquisition of the LME. Warehouses on the mainland would allow the world's biggest marketplace for industrial metals such as copper and aluminium direct access to the top consumer of those metals.

"Foreign exchanges will not be allowed to have warehouses in the free-trade zone. The current ban will stand," said the source with direct knowledge of the policy.

The ban was issued by the China Securities and Regulatory Commission (CSRC) in 2008.

Although the Shanghai government in its draft proposal sought to have the LME open storage facilities in the zone, the source said the idea ran into strong opposition from the securities regulator.

"The overriding concern is that letting the LME have a mainland presence would pose a serious challenge to the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE)," said the source, who was not authorised to speak to the media.

An official from the CSRC declined to comment, adding that any questions would be answered at a regular press briefing on Friday. An LME spokeswoman said the exchange was not aware of any new developments specifically relating to setting up warehouses in the Shanghai free trade zone.

The ShFE lists futures in copper, aluminium, zinc and lead, placing it in direct competition with the LME for traders looking to hedge against or speculate on price movements for physical metal.

The LME has sought for many years to set up delivery networks in China, a move which would help draw Chinese investors and end-users who would be able to better take advantage of the price arbitrage between the domestic and London markets.

It would also help Chinese manufacturers by cutting logistics fees, a major cost component in the premiums they pay on top of LME contract prices to obtain the metal.

In an acknowledgement of the regulatory hurdles, the LME's new chief executive Garry Jones said last week that its dream of opening metal warehousing facilities in China is some way off.