Chinese banks are popping up in Hong Kong's glitzy central business district - one of the world's priciest patches of real estate. As Tara Joseph reports, the territory's iconic skyline is changing to reflect the times.
They used to be the big boys on the block. British banks with a colonial history towering tall and dominating Hong Kong's glittering skyline. But now mainland Chinese banks are pushing into the game. Splashing out on their own new buildings like this brand new Shanghai Commercial Bank - now open for business in the heart of the city's business district. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER TARA JOSEPH, SAYING: "Behind me a new flashy Bank of China ATM outlet in the Central Business district. Highly branded set ups like these have been popping up all over Hong Kong over the past year, encroaching onto what used to be territory dominated by HSBC." China's slowing economy has caused a similar slump here in Hong Kong, a key finance and trade gateway between the mainland and the rest of the world. That's forced western banks to rethink their investment: cutting jobs, even axing whole departments. But Beijing is pushing on with plans to tighten the connection between Hong Kong and China, with financial institutions leading the way. Property consultants said Chinese firms last year accounted for as much as half of all the new rental leases in Central, one of the most expensive business addresses in the world. After British bank Barclays made sweeping cuts on its trading floor, it was a Chinese firm - Zhong Zhi Capital - that moved in to take over its office space. Experts say demand from China is keeping Hong Kong's commercial property market soaring. And even though changes to the city's skyline are gradual they reflect a big shift in focus, as the city approaches the 20-year mark since the handover from British to Chinese rule.