Richard Li

HKT Trust makes dull start amid market worries

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2011, 12:00am

HKT Trust and HKT, the first business trust to list in Hong Kong, had a lacklustre debut yesterday amid concerns over the European debt crisis and tougher competition in the telecommunications sector.

The share stapled units of the telecommunications assets of PCCW, controlled by Richard Li Tzar-kai, closed at HK$4.55, against their issue price of HK$4.53.

Trading was subdued, with turnover at HK$501.99 million - 5.3 per cent of the HK$9.3 billion offering.

Uncertainty in global stock markets forced PCCW to price the trust's units at the low end of an indicative range of HK$4.53 to HK$5.38. That provides a yield of almost 9 per cent for next year, compared with near-zero interest rates and a dividend yield of about 3.9 per cent for blue chips on average.

Individual investors, however, seemed unmoved by the comparatively high yield; the grey market, a general gauge of popularity for new stocks, recorded no transactions a day before the trust officially trading began yesterday.

'After the events of 2008, this is the worst market we've seen for some years,' said Alex Arena, PCCW's group managing director.

Analysts said fierce competition among telecommunications operators in the city would weigh on pricing and the profit of PCCW in the long run.

Steve Cheng Ka-wah, an associate director of Shenyin Wanguo Securities, said new software applications allowing free long-distance calls on smartphones would erode telecommunications operators' earnings in the long run.

Companies are racing to raise funds through capital markets that are bracing for tougher times as the sovereign debt crisis in Europe continues to erode confidence. Chow Tai Fook Jewellery, mainland brokerage firm Haitong Securities and New China Life Insurance will raise a combined US$8.5 billion by the end of next month.

Ratings agency Moody's Investors Service yesterday confirmed HKT's credit rating at Baa2 and left it with a stable outlook because of plans to use HK$7.8 billion of the listing proceeds to repay debt. Moody's had in March put the rating on review for a possible downgrade on concern over competition in the telecommunications market.

'Downward pressure on the rating could materialise should HKT pursue a more aggressive distribution strategy such that debt levels rise to fund shareholder returns,' Moody's said.