China retailers eye Hong Kong IPO before new rules are applied to sponsoring banks

Some firms may go public within the next few months, before regulators begin to apply stricter rules to bankers doing the due diligence

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 July, 2013, 3:07am

Several mainland retailers are mulling going public in Hong Kong before October, when new disciplinary measures against investment banks improperly sponsoring listing hopefuls take effect.

From that month, investment bankers assisting firms with their initial public offering may face criminal charges, three years in jail and a fine of HK$700,000 if they fail to perform due diligence checks on the companies.

La Chapelle, a Shanghai-based maker of apparel for men and women, is looking to raise up to US$600 million in September through a Hong Kong float. Its bankers are waiting for its latest full-year financial figures before tapping the market, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.

They said net profit at La Chapelle could double to 500 million yuan (HK$632 million) this year from a year earlier, which would be a "compelling high-growth story" for investors.

Established in 2001, the firm owns five brands and operates distribution channels across the mainland. Its offering is the latest in the sector after sportswear-maker Hosa International came to the market with a downsized share sale of US$82 million in December 2011.

The mainland apparel industry has been grappling with overcapacity. A report in December by Li & Fung, the Hong Kong-listed supplier of clothes and toys to retailers such as Wal-Mart, said inventory levels of many apparel enterprises had gone beyond warning levels.

It said present stock was sufficient to satisfy demand for three years even if all apparel-makers halted production. The report cited a study by the China National Garment Association.

Shares of Chinese menswear retailer China Outfitters, which went public in September 2011 after US private equity firm KKR pledged to buy a US$60 million stake and be a cornerstone investor, are currently trading at 27 per cent below their offer price.

Fuguiniao, a Fujian-based retailer of men's shoes, is planning to raise up to US$300 million through a listing in Hong Kong. It hopes to overcome concerns about accounting fraud and poor corporate governance among some of the operators in the sector.

Tenwow, a Shanghai-based food and beverage retailer, and drink maker Tian Di No1 plan to raise a combined US$400 million. Tenwow aims to expand its distribution network and buy new brands, while Tian Di No1 wants to expand its production capacity.

M&G, a Italian maker of plastic bottles, is also considering a Hong Kong listing to raise up to US$700 million, even though the firm is unlikely to be directly tied to the China expansion story.

Bankers said much of the proceeds from M&G's offering would be used for expansion in North America, where the firm's major customers, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, are resident.

Hong Kong's stock market was the top global destination for offerings for three consecu- tive years between 2009 and 2011. It lost its shine after the stream of big-ticket listings of state-owned enterprises came to an end.

China's official purchasing managers index fell to 50.1 in June, the lowest level in four months, suggesting growth momentum in the factory sector is running out of steam on faltering new orders. A reading above 50 denotes expansion.