Corn refiner and processor Global Bio-chem Technology Group is raising between HK$320 million and HK$448 million through a main board listing next month, according to market sources. It plans to sell 320 million shares in the range of HK$1 to HK$1.40 each. The pricing represents six to eight times its forecast earnings for last year of not less than HK$220 million. The company, registered in Hong Kong, but mainland-based, is one of the largest corn starch producers in China. It has an annual processing capacity of 600,000 tonnes of corn kernel. Global's turnover for the nine months to September 30 was HK$882.84 million, of which 43 per cent was from the production of corn starch, 12 per cent from corn feed, and another 27 per cent from its output of corn-based biochemicals. These biochemical products include modified starch, amino acid and corn sweeteners - a sugar substitute. Modified starch has applications in the food, textiles and paper industries, while amino acids are used in both the food and pharmaceutical industries. In 1999, net profit grew 167 per cent, year on year, to HK$112.75 million, on HK$1.04 billion turnover, up 95.8 per cent. Global Bio-chem plans to use HK$160 million of the listing proceeds to buy production equipment to triple the annual corn-processing capacity at its facilities in Changchun, Jilin province to 1.8 million tonnes by the end of 2003. Some HK$50 million is earmarked for research and development on new products and production technology. It also plans to use HK$80 million for early repayment of bank borrowings. The company had total bank loans of HK$157.45 million at the end of last May, compared with total assets of HK$977.1 million, and cash of HK$85.32 million. It is aiming to complete its initial public offering involving a private placement and a public offering by early next month, with trading of shares to debut about the middle of the month. It also plans to boost the production of higher profit-margin starch-derivative products, such as fructose.