SHANGHAI Hero Pen Co, which accounts for one-third of China's fountain pen market, is joining the latest rush of firms with well-known brand names to go public. The float of the 62-year-old pen maker, known for its Hero label, follows Shanghai Phoenix Bicycle and Shanghai Forever Bicycle - also with well-known brands. The pen maker has issued 10 million individual A shares, and is to issue 35 million B shares, or 31.82 per cent of the enlarged share capital, for listing next month. Its A-share listing is due early next year. When listed, Hero Pen will become the fourth pen and writing instrument counter on the Shanghai exchange. Its strongest rival will be Shanghai Wingsung Stationery, which also holds about a third of China's fountain pen market. Others are China First Pencil and Shanghai Fenhua, which manufactures mainly ball pens. Shanghai Wingsung and China First Pencil have B shares listed, while Shanghai Fenhua has only A shares listed. Shanghai Hero Pen deputy general manager Duan Keqi said the firm's flotation was aimed at increasing its presence overseas. Hero Pen's annual exports of fountain pens, mostly to Southeast Asia and the Middle East, account for 60 per cent of China's total fountain pen exports. Mr Duan said: ''Although we have established a good footing in Southeast Asia, we have not gained the reputation of some pen makers in the United States, Germany, Japan and Taiwan.'' According to the firm's A-share prospectus, proceeds of the float will be used to buy equipment and set up joint ventures with Taiwanese and Japanese firms to produce more high-end products. Mr Duan said the firm intended to expand its presence overseas, and that by applying for the listing it hoped to gain more recognition. Mr Duan said the local market was suffering from far more supply than demand. China's growing affluence had led to more demand for higher-priced and better quality pens. Last year, there were about 175 million fountain pens sold in China, against a production capacity of 265 million, Mr Duan said. Pens account for about 70 per cent of Hero's sales, with stationery, gifts and premiums making up the remainder. According to the company's A-share prospectus, Hero Pen made some 48 million pens last year, of which 30 per cent were exported. Mr Duan said gold fountain pens took up less than five per cent of the company's fountain pen production, but yielded more than 40 per cent of total fountain pen revenues. The firm's product range also includes ballpens, retractable pencils and computer drafting pens. Last year it made a net profit of 16.55 million yuan (about HK$22.3 million at the official rate). The company has a workforce of 3,500 on a factory site of 42,600 square metres.