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US Businesses Don't Know About Benefits of Using Chinese Renminbi, HSBC Survey Finds

Less than 10 Percent of US Companies Use the Chinese Currency in Trade

More Than Three Quarters Expect to See an Increase in International Business Growth in Next 12 Months

17 July 2013

New York, NY - Although the Chinese renminbi (RMB) is becoming increasingly internationalized, most US businesses aren't ready to use it to settle trade because they aren't aware of the benefits of doing so, according to the findings from a global survey by HSBC.

Just nine percent of 102 US business leaders recently surveyed by HSBC said they had conducted cross-border RMB transactions. When asked why they weren't using it, the top reason was because they weren't aware of its benefits or hadn't fully considered it (67 percent). Other reasons for not using RMB cited by US business leaders included foreign exchange considerations such as a preference to use US dollars or to avoid currency fluctuations (40 percent); process concerns (28 percent) and concerns about regulations (26 percent).

The US is not alone. RMB use to settle trade among Australian and German executives is also less than nine percent, according to HSBC survey findings. However, during July 2012 - April 2013, 16 more countries started using the RMB for more than 10 percent of their payments with China and Hong Kong, according to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), bringing the total number of countries that exchange more than 10 percent of their payments with China and Hong Kong in RMB to 47 out of a possible 160.

"Clearly, RMB use is growing among global competitors" said Prabhat Vira, Head of Global Finance and Trade Receivables at HSBC Bank USA, N.A. "To remain competitive, US businesses may want to seize the renminbi opportunity now to thrive."

China is a top market for US imports and exports and has the world's second largest GDP behind the US, according to the International Monetary Fund. It was also the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in the first half of 2012, according to HSBC research. As such, trade between the US and China is healthy. In fact, 77 percent of US business leaders surveyed by HSBC said they import from China and 49 percent said they have export partners in China. Additionally, US business leaders said international business growth was a priority with more than three quarters expecting to see an increase in their company's international business growth in the next 12 months.

China has been loosening controls on the RMB to establish it as a global trade currency. Today, according to HSBC research, about 10.5 percent of China's trade -- worth more than $400 billion -- is settled in RMB. HSBC expects that share to rise to more than 30 percent by 2015, or to about $2 trillion, as companies become increasingly aware of the potential benefits of invoicing and settling in the Chinese currency.

One advantage to using RMB to settle trade may be the discounts that Chinese business leaders say they will provide. According to the findings, 56 percent of Chinese business leaders in the survey said they would offer discounts of up to three to five percent to their trading partners for RMB denominated transactions.

"Business transactions in RMB are developing rapidly and globally," said Vira. "In addition to potentially reducing costs, US businesses can use RMB to hedge against fluctuations and they may also find they can edge ahead of the competition by offering settlement in RMB."

For businesses in China and Hong Kong, where RMB use is high, business leaders surveyed by HSBC there expect to see cross border RMB transactions to rise over the course of 2013, with 26 percent estimating growth of over 10 percent.

HSBC Holdings plc commissioned Neilsen to conduct a market survey of about 700 companies conducting international business with China regarding their RMB usage in May and June 2013. The survey included responses from business leaders in the US, China, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, the UK, and Germany. Of the companies represented in the survey, approximately half reported annual revenue of over $30 million and half between $3 million to $20 million. The survey was conducted to better understand business leaders' attitudes towards using RMB for trade and investment activities.

Notes to editors:

About HSBC Bank USA, N.A.

HSBC Bank USA, National Association, with total assets of $196bn as of 30 September 2012 (US GAAP), serves 3 million customers through retail banking and wealth management, commercial banking, private banking, asset management, and global banking and markets segments. It operates more than 250 bank branches throughout the United States. There are over 165 in New York State as well as branches in: California; Connecticut; Delaware; Washington, D.C.; Florida; Maryland; New Jersey; Pennsylvania; Oregon; Virginia; and Washington State. HSBC Bank USA, N.A. is the principal subsidiary of HSBC USA Inc., an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of HSBC North America Holdings Inc. HSBC Bank USA, N.A. is a member of the FDIC.

About HSBC Holdings plc

HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of the HSBC Group, is headquartered in London. The Group serves customers worldwide from around 6,900 offices in over 80 countries and territories in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, North and Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. With assets of US$2,721bn at 30 September 2012, the HSBC Group is one of the world's largest banking and financial services organisations.

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