Many mainland companies that were forced to delay their listing plans in 2012 due to a weak market environment may find they are unable to relaunch their plans any time soon until some political uncertainties are resolved, bankers say.
China's once-in-a-decade leadership transition took place in mid-November in Beijing at the Communist Party's 18th congress. At the time the roles for top leaders, including president-in-waiting Xi Jinping, the current vice-president, and premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang, vice-premier at present, were effectively confirmed. However, financial industry executives say they are more keen to know who will be the new leaders in charge of economic, financial and securities matters.
"Different bosses have different ideas and preferences," said one banker. "Some want to accelerate reform of the financial industry and let more companies go public. Others may do things at a relatively slower pace."
Many market participants are optimistic about the outlook for new listings as they expect the stock markets in both Shanghai and Hong Kong to rebound once the new government is formed, which is most likely to be in early March when the fortnight-long National People's Congress is convened.
New policymakers are poised to revive the economy and the stock market, as well as the activities of initial public offerings (IPOs). But the question on investors' minds is how long those companies that delayed their IPO plans in 2012 will have to wait in 2013.
Investment bankers have suggested the second half of 2013, and not any point in the first six months, may be a more likely time for the best so-called market window in which to relaunch their IPO plans. For those who failed to list in 2012, they will also have to ask their IPO auditors to work on their new 2012 full-year financial disclosure to prepare for a listing in 2013; that heavy workflow also makes the second half of 2013 more likely as the busy season for new offerings.
Bankers also say a more substantial recovery in the Hong Kong market would take place in the second half this year as the change in key personnel at the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) is expected to lead to a slowdown in new share offers.
After the congress meetings in March, "it will take at least three months for the new personnel to get started in their new roles at the CSRC, part of the personnel reshuffles within the banking, securities and insurance regulatory units," said a veteran banker at a major European investment bank.
"All the listing hopefuls have to provide updated financial statements before hitting the markets, where the shares of fast-growing companies, such as technology and internet start-ups, are likely to be priced based on 2014 earnings, while asset-based businesses, such as banks and resources firms, could be set at this year's earnings," the banker added.
Meanwhile, mounting pressure on medium-sized property developers on the mainland is expected to persist because of investors' preference in buying national champions that enjoy low financing costs and strong nationwide connections.
"The tough new listing conditions for property developers can be prolonged because jittery investors have felt queer about their financial condition if they offer their shares at a steep discount," said a banker at a US investment bank.
Another banker commented: "The wishful thinking of stimulus always exist but the reality teaches us that China will not boost the economy and the stock market by introducing stimulus measures because the four trillion yuan [HK$4.91 trillion] stimulus in 2008 created a wasteful and oversupplied situation, which will take years to resolve."
Regarding companies' valuations, an equity syndicate banker said that the pricing of new shares is likely to be "inexpensive" and followed by the strong support of cornerstone investors who accept a six-month lock-up period.