Hong Kong no match for Lion City's winning IPO formula

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 April, 2012, 12:00am


The Hong Kong market for initial public offerings (IPO) is as dull and dank as swamp water. Some deals have even been pulled, which means the line of listing applicants just gets longer.

Lurking in the queue of IPO hopefuls are some names that should be very familiar by now. From the financial institutions we have Haitong Securities, China Everbright Bank and People's Insurance Company of China.

In the energy and mining sectors, Sany Heavy, XCMG, Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi and Chinalco's Peruvian mining business are still staking out their places.

Some of these names have been hovering over the Hong Kong market since last year. Others, while large and liquid, may not necessarily turn out to be the easy deals they appear at first glance, such as Graff Diamonds, which we reviewed previously.

The contrast with Southeast Asia could not be more stark. The past few weeks have seen a number of high-profile transactions announced across the region. These include the possible flotation of the Formula One championship company in Singapore, owned by CVC Capital Partners, for which valuation talk is around the US$10 billion mark.

There is also the US$1 billion-plus IPO of Reliance Communications, also in Singapore, as well as ARA's proposed offering of a yuan-denominated real estate investment trust (REIT) following the disappointing listing of Hui Xian in Hong Kong and the possible relaunch of Manchester United's listing, both again in Singapore.

Next door, Thailand has just seen the US$450 million IPO of Tesco's Lotus Fund, the largest flotation there since 2006 (with a unit price up 14 per cent in less than a month), while Securities Commission Malaysia has reportedly approved 12 IPO applications for the main market of Bursa Malaysia.

It's not so much a case of investor fatigue. As noted last week, Hong Kong generated a record volume of follow-on issuance (the sale of shares of previously listed firms) last quarter. The city's new-listings market, however, is still struggling to overcome some disappointing IPOs that arrived late last year and persistent indications of a possible economic slowdown on the mainland.

But sentiment is fickle. One or two successful IPOs could get investors excited about Hong Kong listings again. When such interest returns, there's no shortage of fresh deals to wheel out.

Philippe Espinasse was an investment banker in the US, Europe and Asia for more than 19 years