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Budweiser, Anta Sports and Meituan join Hang Seng Index, displacing Swire Pacific from Hong Kong's stock benchmark

Chinese online food delivery giant Meituan will become a major constituent of the Hang Seng Index from December 7, in a long-awaited move that will further raise the status of technology companies in Asia's third-largest stock market.

Sportswear maker Anta Sports and Budweiser Brewing Company APAC will also become component stocks of Hong Kong's benchmark shares gauge, index compiler Hang Seng Indexes said in a statement on Friday. The latest quarterly "rebalancing" takes the number of constituents to 52 from 50 as Swire Pacific, the British-controlled conglomerate, will be removed.

Meituan, which will account for 5 per cent of the index's weighting, surged 6.6 per cent to close at HK$305.80 on Friday before the announcement. Anta Sports will be weighted at 1 per cent, and Budweiser at 0.5 per cent.

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"The Hang Seng Index looks set to include more new-economy stocks in the future, which will be an even greater allure for large tech companies to list in Hong Kong," said Kenny Wen, wealth management strategist at Everbright Sun Hung Kai.

The long-anticipated inclusion of Meituan came as high-flying tech stocks have increasingly become the focus of the Hong Kong stock market. This had prompted concerns that the benchmark was not adequately representing the sector's relative importance. A slew of secondary listings over the past year by US-listed Chinese digital giants such as Alibaba Group Holding, which owns this newspaper, and JD.com, its rival in e-commerce, bolstered investors' interests in the sector.

The index compiler submitted an initial proposal to its advisory committee after launching a comprehensive study on the composition of the Hang Seng Index in August, according to the statement. It will announce the results in February after consulting market participants on it.

In the last quarterly rebalancing of the index, in August, Alibaba, smartphone giant Xiaomi, and drug development company WuXi Biologics gained approval to become part of the Hang Seng Index. Shares of Xiaomi have soared 125 per cent so far this year, while WuXi Biologics has advanced 148 per cent. Alibaba has climbed 24 per cent, after a recent plunge when Ant Group's suspended listing trimmed some of its earlier gains.

The market value of the Hang Seng Index has leaped by a third so far this year to a historical high of HK$24.3 trillion (US$3.1 trillion) on Friday. It received a huge boost from the trio's inclusion in September, after recovering from a sharp drop in March over the coronavirus outbreak.

After the December rebalancing, Chinese social media and online games giant Tencent Holdings will remain the most-heavily weighted stock, making up 10 per cent of the index, slightly lower than the 10.8 per cent it currently enjoys. Insurer AIA Group will trail Tencent with a weighting of 10 per cent, down from 10.4 per cent.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.