Chen talks of doubling China Oriental's capacity

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 August, 2007, 12:00am

Diana Chen Ningning, one of the richest women in the mainland, said she would more than double steel capacity at China Oriental Group by next year through mergers and acquisitions should her HK$6.33 billion hostile takeover of the company succeed.

Ms Chen, China Oriental's second-largest shareholder, announced her plan yesterday as she tried to gain support from other minority shareholders, who, as part of her offer, would get bonds that could be exchanged for shares of the company after a year.

She also threatened to sell her entire 8 per cent stake in the Hong Kong-listed steelmaker if her takeover attempt failed.

Ms Chen, who is trying to wrest control from company chairman Han Jingyuan, said that if she succeeded, she would inject into China Oriental her 66 per cent stake in Yueyufeng, a steel plant with annual capacity of two million tonnes of steel in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.

That would immediately boost the listed firm's annual capacity 50 per cent to six million tonnes.

'We'll formulate a clear growth strategy and aim to reach capacity of 10 million per annum by the end of 2008 through strategic acquisitions,' Ms Chen said by videoconference from Beijing yesterday, without elaborating on potential targets or the sources of the funds.

Ms Chen, whose wealth was estimated at US$217 million last year by Forbes magazine, is offering HK$18 in cash and two convertible bond units for every nine Oriental shares she does not already own.

She said she was dissatisfied with the company's management.

Her offer will be open until August 31 and go ahead only if she gains majority control of the company.

She has said if her bid succeeded, she would maintain the listing.

Mr Han, who holds 44.91 per cent of the listed firm through his Wellbeing Holdings, rejected Ms Chen's offer in a July 5 statement.

Oriental's directors, controlled by Mr Han, said yesterday they needed time to review the detailed offer document sent yesterday and would respond within 14 days.

Ms Chen's offer, which works out to HK$3 per share, is a 17.7 per cent discount to the stock's HK$3.53 closing price yesterday. She is hoping that by offering the lure of potential large gains down the line through the convertible bonds, shareholders would approve the deal.

'I think if not for our bid, the company's shares would be worth only half of their current level,' Ms Chen said, declining to comment on whether she would raise her offer.

The mainland steel industry is consolidating due to a combination of government policies to promote larger entities and competitive pressures driven by economies of scale.