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Interest rates rise with demand for IPO funds

Carol Chan

High demand for loans to buy shares in recent initial public offerings has pushed up interest rates, with the overnight rate hitting a high of 5 per cent yesterday.

The rate ended at 4.9 per cent from 4.5 per cent at Tuesday.

'I think the short-term rate will stay at a higher level until the end of the month due to IPO demand,' said Hang Seng Bank head of markets Dennis Wong Wai-hung.

Country Garden Holdings, China Molybdenum and China Citic Bank are among companies scheduled to list in Hong Kong this month to raise a combined HK$64 billion.

Guangdong-based property developer Country Garden was likely to price its HK$12.9 billion offering at the top end of an indicated range after receiving overwhelming demand from institutional and retail investors, market sources said.

Its institutional portion, accounting for 90 per cent of the deal, was 40 times oversubscribed.

Its retail portion, which closed yesterday, was more than 240 times oversubscribed, soaking up HK$300 billion of funds from retail investors, making it the second-hottest share offer in Hong Kong in terms of subscriptions funds received, the sources said.

The most popular one was Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which soaked up HK$410 billion from retail investors in October last year.

Country Garden is selling 2.4 billion new shares at between HK$4.18 and HK$5.38 each, representing 16.7 to 21.5 times its forecast earnings for this year.

Metal producer China Molybdenum's HK$6.9 billion issue has also received strong investor demand.

The institutional part of its offering was more than five times oversubscribed, sources said.

The country's largest producer of the minor metal, which is used in steel production, will kick off its retail sale tomorrow as part of an offer of 1.08 billion shares, or 25 per cent of its enlarged share capital.

The shares are to be sold at between HK$5 and HK$6.40 each, valuing the firm at 10.8 to 13.8 times this year's forecast earnings.

The company's earnings for the six months to June will be not less than 950 million yuan, according to the preliminary listing prospectus, which did not provide comparison figures.

China Molybdenum earned net profit of 1.52 billion yuan last year and 1.16 billion yuan in 2005.

The Henan-based metal producer said its profit would be greatly affected by the price of its molybdenum products. If prices changed 5 per cent, its first-half net profit will be changed 3.1 per cent in the same direction.