Scores of natural resource companies across Asia are planning initial public offerings on regional and global stock markets next year but doubts are being raised about the quality of their assets and the long-term commitment of management. Bankers say many of these companies own third-rate assets that no one would have even looked at before the run-up in commodity prices. They suspect some managers are more interested in cashing out in an overheated market than in delivering value to shareholders. 'It's like the technology boom all over again,' one banker said. From the mid-1990s, dozens of internet-related start-up companies saw their shares soar until the bust came in 2001. One banker said that of about 15 resource-related companies that approached him in the past quarter, he had accepted only one as an IPO hopeful. When investment bankers, whose annual bonuses are linked to the volume of deals they arrange, start to question transactions, it is past time to take note. 'Commodities have done so well and it has pulled in naive investors,' said David Turnbough, a portfolio manager at AllianceBerstein. Since 2002, energy stocks in the MSCI World Index have returned 22 per cent while materials, including commodities, have produced the same return. The global economy is in the longest commodity bull market in history with 57 months of rising prices, according to the Reuters-CMB Continuous Commodity Index. The longest previous commodity bull market in the mid-1990s lasted for 41 months. The benchmark oil futures contract was trading at US$57.88 on Friday, five times higher than its 1999 level, despite having fallen from a high of US$77.03 in July. Benchmark natural gas futures traded in New York have tripled over the same period. One IPO candidate, Texas American Resources, has raised investor concerns because its owner appears unwilling to invest further in the company. The firm, which has a Beijing-based affiliate, Texas American Resources Asia, is looking to raise between US$50 million and US$75 million either through a listing on London's Alternative Investment Market or from private equity funds, sources said. The company owns 1.82 million hectares of offshore blocks in Asia. Its principal holdings are two blocks in the Pearl River Delta. 'The strange thing is the owner of the company is worth north of US$400 million to US$500 million and he won't put his own money in - that makes me nervous,' said a banker familiar with the company. Founder and president David Honeycutt declined to comment. Chief financial officer Mike Wichterich said the firm has no plans to sell shares in the near future. Petrocom, which blends coal using technology licensed from a Dutch company, is also an IPO candidate. Some investors are wary of the guaranteed dividend payout its owner has negotiated for himself. The company just completed a pre-IPO financing of about US$50 million and intends to list shares as soon as next year, sources said. 'The market is with us,' said chairman and chief executive Howard Au. 'There will be ups and downs in coal prices but the chance of a collapse is rather remote.' Mr Au bought Petrocom three years ago and took the company out of oil trading and into the coal business. The company will open its first blending site, at Langyungang Port in Jiangsu province, in the third quarter of next year, he said. The sale of equity through the US$50 million financing was at such a huge premium to Mr Au's original investment that he effectively recouped all of his costs, people familiar with the deal said. Jiutai Energy, a subsidiary of China Energy, is looking to list in Singapore. It says it is the largest coal gasification company in China and plans to use its IPO proceeds to increase capacity. By year-end, Jiutai expects to have doubled annual capacity to 400,000 tonnes. A recent failed attempt to bring Chemoil Energy to the market could be a bad omen for other Asian commodity-related companies. Chemoil, a Singapore-based marine fuel oil company that claims 5 per cent of the global market and 20 per cent of the US market, scrapped plans to raise up to US$374 million in an IPO in Singapore last month. The problem was valuation. Its shares were initially offered at a range of 65 US cents - 11.5 times forecast earnings next year - to 85 US cents. There were still not enough takers after the bottom end was lowered to 55 US cents or 9.9 times earnings. Other companies planning IPOs include Salamander Energy, a British energy producer with assets in Thailand and Indonesia which is hoping to raise US$100 million to US$150 million in Singapore.