Legend storms ahead as share offer ties up $81b

Kenneth Ko

LEGEND Holdings has attracted $81.8 billion for its public offer, which was 405 times subscribed.

The offshoot of a local subsidiary of the China Academy of Science said yesterday that its new issue drew 5,131 valid applications for the shares offered to the public.

The subscription rate beat the figure set by the Japanese retail chain Jusco Stores (Hong Kong) of 357 times last month, which tied up applicants' funds worth about $35.6 billion.

The huge number of subscriptions was seen as not surprising in view of Legend's strong Chinese background and its presence in the mainland's computer market through its parent Beijing Legend Holdings.

China-play companies have been the favourites of investors eager to get a share of the fast-growing economy.

The public offering by non-ferrous metals trader Simsen Metals (Holdings), which closed yesterday, was also heavily subscribed, underscoring the enthusiasm for such counters.

A source said Simsen's new issue was subscribed more than 180 times, locking nearly $10 billion into the interbank market. The shares are expected to begin trading on February 16.

Simsen is minority-owned by an offshoot of the mainland giant China National Nonferrous Metals Industry Corp (CNNC), which is headed by Wu Jianchang, son-in-law of paramount Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. Mr Wu is also honorary chairman of Simsen.

Analysts said Simsen's close link with local tycoon Li Ka-shing, who has taken a 7.5 per cent in the company, was viewed as a further boost.

Legend issued 168.75 million new shares at $1.33 each, raising $224.4 million. About 10 per cent of the new shares were offered to the company's staff, and that part was fully taken up.

The company had also placed a two per cent stake with a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bank of China group before the public offer, further tightening its links with mainland parties.

Taking into account the share placement and internal subscription, Legend's new issue involved an aggregate $82.63 billion - the most tied up since the beginning of this year.

Unsuccessful applications will be refunded on Friday and the company's shares will begin trading on February 14.

Chairman Liu Chuanzhi said the response demonstrated investors' confidence in its ''computer expertise, strong business relationships, diversified business strategy'' and its management.

Founded in 1988, Legend is a distributor in Hong Kong and China of computers and computer-related brand names such as Apple, AST, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. It also manufactures and supplies motherboards and add-on cards to personal computer makers in China, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

Legend accounts for about half of AST's total computer sales in China and Hong Kong. The US computer manufacturer took a 27 per cent share of the mainland market in 1992, making it the most popular computer brand name in China, which is dominated by foreign brands.

Business in China contributed about half the company's sales and about 60 to 70 per cent of net income. It has 180 distributors across the country.

But some analysts cautioned that Legend's meagre profit margin of less than three per cent would be squeezed by a very competitive market and the rapid rate at which computers became outdated.