Shares in Star Cruises, Asia-Pacific's largest cruise-ship operator, soared 36.92 per cent on their Hong Kong stock exchange debut. The Singapore-based cruise liner group's counter hit an intra-day high of HK$7.95 before ending on HK$7.75. Shares were placed at HK$5.66 and up to HK$760,000 worth changed hands during the day's trade. Lim Kok Thay, chairman of Star Cruises and controlling shareholder Genting International, said the company would consider investing in Hong Kong to help develop the SAR into a regional cruise-liner hub. 'That's why we listed in Hong Kong. It would certainly allow us to explore the infrastructure side a bit more aggressively,' he said. Mr Lim said the company's skills lay in the cruise business but it would consider a supporting role 'if and when it comes up'. In August, shareholders of Star Cruises, whose fleet includes SuperStar Virgo and SuperStar Aries, approved a plan to reduce debt by raising up to US$800 million through an initial public offering. The plan was sunk a month later after the Singapore-based company's advisers, HSBC and Credit Suisse First Boston, advised against an issue. 'Our advisers were not confident because the markets have been very volatile and not being from Hong Kong, we listened to our advisers,' Mr Lim said. The company moved its primary listing from Luxembourg to Hong Kong by way of introduction; where no shares are issued to the public. Star Cruises, whose fleet of 20 ships visits China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand, issued 685.6 million new shares to three parties through a placement. Malaysian-based Resorts World, which owns 28.1 per cent of Star Cruises, will receive 609.8 million shares for US$442.5 million through the conversion of US$480 million in convertible loan notes due next year. Independent parties Swiss-based fund manager HSZ and Singapore broker Kay Hian will receive 75.8 million shares for US$429 million. As part of the transaction, Star Cruises will convert a US$240 million loan into shares and a company director will also buy US$200,000 in shares. Star Cruises will use the proceeds to reduce debt raised to finance its US$600 million takeover of Oslo-based NCL Holdings, parent of Norwegian Cruise Line. Mr Lim said Hong Kong was chosen as the location of its primary listing over New York because of the SAR's reputation for attracting international investors. 'We were contemplating New York or Hong Kong but we were told there wasn't much difference if you are an Asian company,' he said. 'For those Asian companies that list in New York, sooner or later their shares always migrate back to [Hong Kong] anyway.' Shares in the company will remain available over the counter in Singapore.