Steely silence from Magang
''WHY has your company been chosen as one of the nine Chinese enterprises to be listed in Hong Kong?'' someone asked over the lunch that ended the three-day visit to Maanshan Iron and Steel Co (Magang).
During the visit, fund managers, analysts and journalists had pressed company executives for every piece of data, trying to pull together a more complete picture of the iron and steel giant, which, like Shanghai Petrochemical, is of a sort they have rarely encountered.
When dealing with this sort of question, Magang president Hang Yongyi was much more helpful than during his formal presentation about the company.
The credit for the listing, he said, must go partly to the governor of the poor province of Anhui, which was previously best known for the tourist attraction of Yellow Mountain and its vulnerability to floods.
Mr Hang proudly explained how the governor, who had been the head of the iron and steel plant before his political appointment, had lobbied Beijing to pick the leading enterprise in his province.
Mr Hang stressed that Magang deserved the honour, given its performance since its founding in 1953.
But he acknowledged that practical considerations had played a part in the decision.
''There are many plants which are really large in scale, such as Capital Iron and Steel and Anshan Iron and Steel, but turning these giants into shareholding companies is a gigantic task,'' he said.
A small firm, on the other hand, might not have been representative of the industry.
There are more than 1,600 iron and steel plants in China, but the largest 10 turned out nearly 50 per cent of the total output last year.
Asked to provide a table showing the capacity and actual output of the company's plants, Mr Hang said: ''We have to think about it.'' As one analyst who was about to leave said: ''The company is quite impressive, the prospects look good, and the production facilities are not as outdated as imagined, but it is a pity that they could not offer more information.''