McDonald's financial secret sauce contains yuan

08/24/2010 12:17 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com



Want some yuan with that Big Mac?

On August 19 McDonald’s (MCD) became the first foreign non-financial company to sell yuan-denominated bonds in Hong Kong.

The U.S. company sold 200 million yuan (about $30 million) of 3% notes due in September 2013. Standard Chartered (SCBFF) was the manager on the sale.

The sale marks another step in China’s plan to create a financial system on a par with the markets in Tokyo and New York. That will eventually require China to turn the yuan into a freely exchangeable currency and China is certainly not willing to go there yet. But in February foreign companies became eligible for the first time to sell yuan-denominated bonds in Hong Kong.

It makes sense for McDonald’s to tap into the Chinese funding pool since it is now a familiar brand name in China.The company plans to just about double the number of its stores in China by 2013.

Next big U.S. non-financial company on deck in Hong Kong may be Wal-Mart (WMT). Back in March the company indicated that it was studying an issue of yuan-denominated bonds in Hong Kong.

There is an investible idea here.

McDonald's move to tap the Hong Kong market directly through a bond sale isn't just a sign of the maturation of China's currency. It's also a signal of the continuing shift in the global financial industry toward the emerging centers of Hong Kong, Singapore, Sao Paulo, and Shanghai. That shift will lead to market share gains for the banks and investment banks doing business in those centers. Notice who managed this sale: Standard Chartered, a London-headquartered bank with 150 years of history in Asia. Doesn't mean that JPMorgan Chase (JPM) or Goldman Sachs (GS) or Citigroup (C)  can't compete. But the power it is a shifting.

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