Talk about moving fast: China's decision to launch a new special economic zone set off a buying frenzy in Hong Kong that's set to spill over into the mainland when markets open Wednesday after a holiday.
Shares of cement maker BBMG spiked as much as 45 percent in Hong Kong trading on Monday, after state media reported China would develop a sleepy 100 square kilometer area in Hebei province in hopes of boosting growth. Both Shenzhen and Shanghai's Pudong area — now major manufacturing and financial hubs — started the same way.
"They'll build it, and they can build it very fast … it's a property play; it's also an infrastructure play," said Francis Cheung, head of Hong Kong and China strategy at brokerage CLSA. "Definitely infrastructure will be the most bankable."
That's because China will need to support an influx of business and workers in the zone, dubbed Xiongan New Area, if the government wants to succeed. Specific sectors like property and construction will likely get a boost, said Macquarie China economist Larry Hu.
But shares in many of the most-affected companies have yet to trade on the news: Hong Kong markets were open Monday and closed Tuesday, while mainland markets were shut both days for a public holiday.
Cheung also said he expects property prices in the Xiongan area, and as far away as Beijing, to climb as the new special economic zone gets under way.
In fact, so many prospective real estate investors flooded the region shortly after the announcement of the zone that the government banned property sales to curb speculation, according to Chinese media reports.
Over the long term, the auto sector could flourish if the government lured such firms to the special economic zone, Cheung said. Some automakers are already located in the Beijing area, not far from Hebei, and could benefit from a broader government push to get more electric cars on the road.
The Xiongan zone could also play a crucial part in developing high-tech sectors, part of a bigger plan meant for China to innovate for itself, called "Made in China 2025."
Hebei is currently home to heavy industry, and is China's main province for iron and steel production. But this region has been hit by massive layoffs as the country's economic growth engine lumbers toward the services sectors. Experts say if Beijing can succeed in transforming Hebei, a ground zero for China's growth transition, that could pave the way for continued economic health.
"Whether the special economic zone will compete with Shanghai or Shenzhen — I think it really depends on the policies," Cheung said.