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Asset managers in China tech ETF race as U.S. tensions stir investor fever

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Asset managers are racing to launch index funds tracking China’s top technology companies, capitalising on investor fervour stirred by Sino-U.S. tensions, and fuelled by Ant Group’s blockbuster listing.

This week, CSOP Asset Management Ltd launched the first exchange-traded fund (ETF) based on the Hang Seng TECH Index, which tracks the 30 biggest tech companies listed in Hong Kong, including Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group.

China Asset Management Co (ChinaAMC) and Dacheng Fund Management Co will follow suit, while global ETF giants Vanguard and BlackRock are preparing for similar products, according to company filings and people familiar with the plans.

In mainland China, four money managers, including ChinaAMC and Huatai-PineBridge, are gearing up to launch the country’s first ETFs tracking the STAR 50 index, the newly published gauge for Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style STAR Market.

Fund managers say a looming technology decoupling between China and the United States amid trade and security tensions will accelerate home listings by Chinese tech companies, creating demand for tech ETFs.

“We foresee many existing and new tech companies listing in Hong Kong, whereas before, their choice could be listing in the U.S.,” said Melody He, managing director of CSOP Asset Management, whose CSOP Hang Seng TECH Index ETF will be listed on Friday.

Greed and patriotism have fuelled a strong rally in Chinese tech stocks, as Beijing accelerates capital market reforms to fund its technology race with the United States.

Further driving up sentiment, Alibaba’s Ant Group on Tuesday filed for a dual listing in Hong Kong and on Shanghai’s STAR Market, potentially raising as much as $30 billion.

Zhang Hongtao, manager of ChinaAMC’s planned STAR50 ETF, said increasing home listings by Chinese tech firms give local investors access to some of China’s best technology companies, an opportunity they once missed.

The trend is accelerating after Washington recently tightened auditing standards for U.S.-listed Chinese companies, and sanctioned Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat.

Yang Siqi, analyst at Hwabao Securities Co, said tech ETFs will likely be popular.

“ETFs, which invest in a portfolio of companies, lower the bar of tech investment for retail investors, who have difficulty picking stocks” and investing in tech stocks is being promoted by the government, Yang said.

Reporting by Samuel Shen and Andrew Galbraith; Editng by Lincoln Feast.

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