Centenary Bank Note Sale Sparks Hong Kong Buying Frenzy

Hundreds of Hong Kong people attracted by instant fourfold returns lined up overnight for banknotes commemorating the Bank of China Ltd.’s 100th anniversary.

People were seen selling the special HK$100 notes, sold by the bank at HK$150 ($19.35) each, for as much as HK$700 apiece outside the lender’s Central district headquarters yesterday. Customers were restricted to buying two notes each. One was advertised at $149.99 on EBay Inc. (EBAY)’s Hong Kong site.

Collectors and those hoping to make a quick profit camped outside the bank’s 50 branches in the city. The lines began forming on Feb. 12, a day before the sale started, and people again queued overnight on Feb. 13.

“We will resell the notes once we get them,” said Sunny Wong, an 18-year-old local student who waited for more than two hours outside the Central building. “There are buyers right outside the bank’s doors. I hope to get at least a few hundred dollars.”

The “overwhelming response” prompted Bank of China (Hong Kong) Ltd. to hand out reservation slips to customers queuing yesterday, the bank wrote in a statement sent to Bloomberg. The lender said it completed distributing the tickets at 9 p.m.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority told the bank to restore public order by deploying more workers, and may require similar future sales to be done by computer balloting, the Standard newspaper said today, citing the city’s de facto central bank.

Limited Issue

The bank is offering 1.1 million single banknotes, contained in a commemorative folder, through 50 branches in the city until Feb. 20, according to its website. The bank will also sell 100,000 sets of three uncut HK$100 notes for HK$600 each and 20,000 sets of 30 HK$100 uncut ones for HK$6,000 a set by subscription, it said.

“I got here at around 3 a.m. and haven’t eaten since then,” said a 66-year-old woman who would only provide her surname as Lee. “I know people are reselling the notes but I won’t -- it’s a limited edition and I really want to collect them,” she said, as she sat on stool in the queue.

The bank is set to raise about HK$145 million ($18.7 million) for charity through the sale.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fion Li in Hong Kong at fli59@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Gentle at ngentle2@bloomberg.net; Sandy Hendry at shendry@bloomberg.net

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