Hong Kong's retail investors are clamouring for rare shares in a Chinese pork supplier this week, heralding a potential stampede when industry giant WH Group comes to market in April with what could be a US$6 billion listing.
With few fresh Chinese meat sector listings, the chance to buy into a vast, steadily growing industry has made little-known Huisheng International popular.
Its initial public offering, due to be priced late yesterday, generated retail demand 20 times the US$37 million shares on offer in the first day of subscription.
As shoppers on the mainland, the world's biggest pork consumer, grew more affluent, per capita spending on meat, poultry and processed products more than doubled to 1,184 yuan (HK$1,500) by 2012 from 2006, Huisheng said in its offering prospectus.
The company cited Chinese government statistics and a report by research firm Ipsos.
Strong demand for Huisheng, which is raising funds for freezer facilities and new farms, bodes well for WH. Its flotation is expected to be Hong Kong's biggest listing since 2010 in a banner year for the city's investment bankers.
Previously known as Shuanghui International, WH is a powerhouse of China's meat trade. Last year, it acquired US pork producer Smithfield Foods, which had sales of US$13.2 billion in the fiscal year to April 2013.
"The fundamentals, the company and the business factors are better [for WH]," said Alvin Cheung, associate director at Prudential Brokerage. "It's a quite different and much more diversified company."
When the retail portion of Huisheng's offer closed on Thursday, demand for shares had soared to a value of US$1.34 billion, according to brokerage Phillip Securities.
Pork sales on the mainland rose to 51.8 million tonnes in 2012, 18 per cent higher than in 2007, and are forecast to reach 58.5 million tonnes in 2017, according to research firm Euromonitor International.