Mainland financial firms lining up for Hong Kong IPO watch as second Chinese bank makes muted debut

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 1:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 1:31pm

Huishang Bank became the second Chinese lender in just over a week to make a lacklustre Hong Kong debut, underscoring lukewarm investor appetite for the Chinese financial sector despite a likely raft of listings on the way.

The flat start for Huishang, which raised US$1.2 billion in the city’s biggest bank initial public offering in three years, follows weak pricing for the offer, near the bottom of its marketing range.

The soft tone for bank listings comes as China Cinda Asset Management, the country’s biggest bad-loan manager, began gauging investor interest for its IPO of up to US$2 billion this week. The offer is expected to be priced in the first week of next month.

Also monitoring the debut are other Chinese lenders, including China Everbright Bank, Bank of Beijing and China Guangfa Bank, which are among companies seeking to raise about US$11 billion through Hong Kong offerings over the next eight to 10 months.

In morning trade, Huishang Bank shares were changing hands at HK$3.53, the same level at which the IPO was priced, after hitting a high of HK$3.58. That compares with a marketing range of HK$3.47 to HK$3.88.

Bank of Chongqing, another Chinese provincial lender, which listed last week, was also trading below its IPO price on Tuesday.

Some market participants said that of the two, Huishang, which is based in the booming industrial heartland of Anhui province, looks to be the better bet.

“It’s fairly valued and is a better buy compared with recently listed Bank of Chongqing, which counts local governments as its key clients,” said Jackson Wong, Tanrich Securities’ vice-president for equity sales.

It’s fairly valued and is a better buy compared with recently listed Bank of Chongqing, which counts local governments as its key clients
Jackson Wong, Tanrich Securities

“Huishang is less risky because its business is more retail-driven and it’s one of the more recognisable banks in the central parts of China.”

With the mainland IPO markets shut down by regulators for more than a year, Chinese lenders are turning to Hong Kong to bolster their balance sheets as bad debts show signs of picking up in the world’s second-biggest economy.

But the new offers have met with weak demand as investors tend to prefer listed peers with a known track record of performance.

At the IPO price, Huishang was valued at a forward price-to-book ratio of 0.95, compared with the average P/B of 1.18 for Hong Kong-listed banks, according to Thomson Reuters data.

To overcome the weak demand, underwriters have been selling more shares to cornerstone investors, who get guaranteed allocations in return for agreeing to lock up shares for a certain time. In Huishang’s case, China Vanke committed to buy about US$400 million in shares, to become its largest shareholder.

Huishang’s debut contrasts with a flying start for Boyaa Interactive International, China’s largest developer of online card and board games.

Boyaa, which raised about US$127 million, shot up 30.3 per cent, underscoring investor optimism over booming growth in the sector.

The company’s offer was swamped by orders from small investors, with the retail portion generating more than 832 times demand than the shares on offer, a company filing said on Monday. The institutional tranche of the IPO was “very significantly oversubscribed”, it said.