Tianjin Port offer 1,700 times covered

Float breaks record with highest level of retail subscription and soaks up the fifth-largest amount of funds at $184b

Tianjin Port Development Holdings closed the retail portion of its initial public offering yesterday almost 1,700 times covered, setting a new record for Hong Kong and ensuring the stock will be priced at the top of its indicated range.

The institutional tranche of the share sale was 30 times covered.

The level of retail subscription was the highest since China Green (Holdings), whose public share offering in January 2004 was 1,603 times oversubscribed.

Before that, the record was held by Beijing Enterprises Holdings, which was 1,275 times oversubscribed when it went to market in May 1997.

In terms of funds tied up, however, Tianjin Port ranked just fifth in the stock exchange's history - pulling in $184.72 billion - due to the small size of its offering.

This still outstripped rival Dalian Port (PDA)'s $184.04 billion in funds as the hottest offering of the year.

Tianjin Port, brought to market by ABN Amro Rothschild and CLSA, is selling 578 million shares at $1.55 to $1.88 each to raise $1.08 billion.

Owing to the overwhelming response, sources said the operator of China's fifth-largest port was expected to price its float at the top of the price range, translating into a 16.9 times fully diluted earnings forecast for this year.

Tung Tai Securities associate director Kenny Tang Sing-hing said the strong performance of recently listed Dalian Port spurred upbeat demand for Tianjin Port.

Dalian Port, the only Hong Kong-listed mainland oil and container terminal, surged 67.96 per cent on its trading debut on April 28. The counter tracked the recent market consolidation but recovered 5.19 per cent yesterday to close at $4.05, trading at 19.91 times forecast earnings.

The recent market fluctuations also lured investors to place their bets on newcomers rather than listed stocks as it seemed easier to make money in new listings, said Mr Tang.

The winning streak for new listings has not paused since the beginning of this year, with offerings such as Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) gaining 39.7 per cent on its trading debut and Hunan Nonferrous Metals Corp soaring 72.72 per cent.

Mr Tang said he expected Tianjin Port to also make a stellar debut, rising 30 to 40 per cent as fund managers who failed to get an allocation would be buying directly from the market.

A more than 100 times retail subscription means Tianjin Port will need to allocate 50 per cent of its offer shares to retail investors from the original 10 per cent, according to its prospectus. The shares will start trading on May 24.

Tianjin Port, which was spun off from Tianjin Development Holdings, has been losing market share in the container business in its home port for the past three years. It is banking on its new acquisition, a container handling facility at Beigangchi, an extension project of the port at Tianjin, to help it boost and retain business.