Resource-rich Central Asian nation Kazakhstan is seeking to cooperate with Hong Kong’s stock exchange, including a possible tie up that would involve an ownership stake in a new stock exchange planned

for the nation’s capital.

The landlocked nation, with a land mass the size of Western Europe and an economy that relies on crude oil for 20 per cent of its gross domestic product, has ambitious plans to grow its stock exchange into the top leagues in Asia.

“Kazakhstan wants to diversify its economy, and play a key role in providing world-class financial services covering Central Asia as well as neighbouring nations like Russia, Mongolia, northwest China, and Iran,” governor of the Astana International Finance Centre, Kairat Kelimbetov told the South China Morning Post in an interview.

Kelimbetov, a former deputy prime minister and ex-governor of the nation’s central bank, says that the Astana International Finance Centre will be built on land that will host the World Expo next year.

Kelimbetov said he will hold discussions with Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Monday on potential cooperation in the trade of commodities such as gold, uranium and crude oil.

Also on the agenda is whether Hong Kong should become a “key stakeholder” in the project.

“We are looking for investors who can bring new technologies and new understanding to the exchange,” Kelimbetov said.

A spokesman at Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing acknowledged it held discussions Monday with Kelimbetov on “matters of mutual interest including the development of Kazakhstan’s financial centre” and the “Belt and Road” opportunities, but did not comment on whether it has potential interest in owning a stake in the Kazakhstan stock exchange.

Astana replaced Almaty as Kazakhstan’s capital in 1997, a process that was completed when all government departments were relocated to the city. The central bank and stock exchange were to temporarily remain in Almaty where most of the commercial banks are headquartered.

The central bank and stock exchange plan relocate to the new capital, taking up office space in the financial centre which is slated to begin construction in 2018.

Kelimbetov said the new financial centre in Astana will play an “international and regional role” and focus on asset management, Islamic finance and stock trading, while Almaty will maintain its position in local commercial banking.

Kazakhstan’s US$60 billion sovereign fund will also be managed from the new financial centre. It’s also expected to play in role as a hub in helping state-owned companies raise funds through share sales in the next four years, particular towards state companies in the oil, uranium, power sectors, he said.

The new finance centre will use English common law and have an independent commercial court and arbitration centre. It will also be granted special privileges as a free trade zone, extend preferential income tax rates and visa-free entry to foreigner workers and investors.

Astana devalued its currency, the Kazakhstani Tenge, by 19 per cent two years ago, tracking weakness in Russia’s rouble.

The Tenge was refloated last August when it plunged a further 26 per cent.