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Your Week in Asia

Asia vaccine rollouts, Huawei Mate X2, G-20 ministers meet

Your weekly lineup of Asia's biggest business and political events

Four countries in Asia will roll out various COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 26.    © Reuters

Welcome to Your Week in Asia.

Three different COVID vaccines will be rolled out in Asian countries this week. On Friday, South Korea will begin administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to 272,000 workers and residents under 65 at elderly care centers. Over 65s have been excluded for now, as the specific vaccine's effectiveness for that age group is unconfirmed.

In Malaysia, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is to receive his country's first Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday -- two days earlier than planned -- followed by some 500,000 health care workers. Malaysia expects to complete the vaccination program by early next year.

Thailand begins administering the Sinovac vaccine also on Wednesday.

Australia is also set to kick off its vaccine rollout on Monday, initially with Pfizer jabs.

Keep up with our reporting by following us on Twitter @NikkeiAsia.


Chip wars: Huawei launches Mate X2

Huawei Technologies will launch its third generation of foldable smartphones on Monday in China. The Huawei Mate X2 will be powered by the Kirin 9000 chip designed in-house, the same chipset installed in the Mate 40 flagship smartphone launched last year. The Kirin 9000 was manufactured by TSMC with the industry's most advanced 5-nanometer chip production technology, before the supply was cut off by the U.S. government.

Separately, the embattled Chinese tech giant on the same day will host two forums on sustainability and cybersecurity ecosystems ahead of 2021 Mobile World Congress in Shanghai.


HSBC restructuring plan updates

HSBC will unveil a revised restructuring plan as it reports a 33% drop in full-year profit, after the coronavirus pandemic pushed up loan loss provisions. The bank said in October it will cut its 2022 cost base beyond its original $31 billion target and slash its loan book even deeper in hopes of freeing up cash to invest in more profitable businesses.

It plans to invest in new products in Asia, particularly in its wealth, insurance, trade finance, retail banking and markets businesses, including foreign exchange, to boost fee income.

A big question is whether HSBC will reinstate dividends after it canceled them in 2020 for the first time in 74 years under pressure from British regulators. The move enraged Asian shareholders, who own a third of the bank's shares.

Mobile World Congress in Shanghai

The 2021 Mobile World Congress will kick off in Shanghai on Tuesday, a rare in-person (and online) international trade show to be held during the pandemic. The main MWC, which Barcelona usually hosts in February, was canceled last year and has been pushed back to June 28.

Speakers to watch: Huawei Technologies deputy chairman Ken Hu, ZTE President Su Ziyang, Lenovo chairman Yang Yuanqing and Nokia President Pekka Lundmark,

Will Sembcorp stay in Myanmar?

Singapore conglomerate Sembcorp Industries operates a gas-fired power plant in Myanmar and plans to develop an industrial park in the country. Investors will listen to Tuesday's financial results announcement for updates on these businesses as the coup impacts Myanmar's economy and foreign investors.


A good year for HKEX

Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing, the world's most valuable financial exchange operator, is expected on Wednesday to post a 20.5% rise in its annual net profit and 16% growth in revenue, as trading volumes and new listings surged in 2020.

The exchange is gaining from closer links with mainland China, with volumes surging in the stock connect program that allows mainland investors to buy stock listed in Hong Kong. Global investors can also buy yuan-denominated shares in Shanghai and Shenzhen via Hong Kong.

Stock connect trading volumes accounted for 10% of HKEX's revenue in the first nine months and continue to grow. Mainland investors have made net purchases of over $50 billion so far this year, more than half the entire volume of 2020.

Hong Kong budget

Hong Kong is set to record its largest budget deficit in 20 years due to a series of coronavirus relief measures as well as dwindling tax and land sales revenue. KPMG estimates that the financial hub will log a deficit of HK$282 billion for the fiscal year of 2020/21, leaving the city’s fiscal reserve at HK$878 billion by the end of March, 2021.


Bank of Korea bond buy

The Bank of Korea is expected on Thursday to announce a plan to buy South Korean treasury bonds, while keeping the key rate unchanged at 0.5%. Economists forecast that the central bank will launch a 5 trillion to 10 trillion won regular bond-buying program to ensure stability in bond markets.

AirAsia, Qantas results

Multiple Asian airlines are set to reveal their results for the final quarter of 2020, an annus horribilis for the industry, thanks to COVID-19 and worldwide travel restrictions. Investors are braced for bad news, and will be listening for the airlines' outlooks for 2021.

Malaysia's cash-strapped AirAsia Group, which reports Thursday, has already pulled out from a joint venture in Japan and sold most of its stake in the India business. The region's largest budget carrier is shifting its focus to digital commerce in an effort to create a "superapp" to grow its revenue streams. 

Also reporting partial results on Thursday are Australia's Qantas Airways and Air New Zealand, which has been provided with loans by the government in March. Qantas announced in June it would lay off some 6,000 employees or 20% of its workforce as part of a three-year recovery plan.


Hang Seng Index overhaul plan

Hang Seng Indexes' plan to greatly expand the number of companies in the 51-year-old index will take another step forward on Friday when it releases the results of a market survey on its proposals. The 52-component index is seeking expand to as many as 80 issues, amid a deluge of mainland China companies listing in the territory.

The compiler asked for market views on fast-tracking new listings, capping weightings at 8% from 10% currently, expanding sector representation and reserving a certain portion for Hong Kong-domiciled companies. The benchmark's reliance on financial stocks was blamed for its underperformance last year as stock indexes around the world scaled new heights.

India quarterly GDP

India is set to release gross domestic product data for the third fiscal quarter ended December. The economy is expected to register marginal positive growth after two consecutive quarters of pandemic-induced contraction. The Reserve Bank of India, the central bank, has projected a growth rate of 0.1%, year-on-year, in the December quarter, while the nation's largest lender, State Bank of India, has pegged it at 0.3%.

Yellen debuts at G-20 ministers' meeting

Finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 of the world's largest economies will meet for the first time this year on Friday. The forum will be a familiar one for Janet Yellen, the former head of the U.S. Federal Reserve, who will attend for the first time as treasury secretary.

On the agenda: fiscal and monetary policy support for the COVID recovery, debt moratoriums, financial inclusion and international taxation.


China's Standing Committee draws up NPC agenda

The main decision-making body of China's National People's Congress will meet over the weekend to draw up the agenda for the annual legislative session starting March 5. One item is expected to be the committee's work report on social and economic achievements for 2020 and setting goals for 2021.

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