DEFINITION of 'Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor - QFII'

A program that permits certain licensed international investors to participate in China's mainland stock exchanges. The Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor program was launched by the People's Republic of China in 2002 to allow foreign investors access to its stock exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Prior to QFII, foreign investors were not able to buy or sell shares on China's stock exchanges because of China's tight capital controls. With the launch of the QFII program, licensed investors can buy and sell yuan-denominated "A" shares. Foreign access to these shares is limited by specified quotas that determine the amount of money that the licensed foreign investors are permitted to invest in China's capital markets.

BREAKING DOWN 'Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor - QFII'

As of April, 2012, the combined quota for the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor program was set at U.S. $80 billion. The quotas are granted by SAFE - China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange, and the quotas can be adjusted to reflect and respond to the country's economic and financial situation. Type of investments include listed stocks (excluding foreign-oriented, or "B" shares); Treasury bonds, corporate debentures and convertible bonds, and other financial instruments approved by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC). To be approved as a licensed investor, certain qualifications must be met (qualifications are dependent upon the type of investor - such as fund management companies and insurance companies). For example, fund management companies are required to have a minimum of five years of experience in assets management and must have managed at least U.S. $5 billion in securities assets in the most recent accounting year. A specified amount of foreign currency, transferred and converted to local currency, is also required for approval.

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