Australia lures more listings from mainland

PROSPECTS are looking up Down Under for China companies seeking to list on the Australian Stock Exchange, according to Price Waterhouse partner Ian Armstrong.

Mr Armstrong is in the territory putting the final touches to the latest mainland addition to the Australian market and believes other companies are also considering antipodean exposure.

While he did not disclose the name of his client, he said it was an industrial group with a market capitalisation of between A$60 million (about HK$341.06 million) and $80 million.

The Australian exchange is one of many worldwide seeking the participation of China's burgeoning corporate sector.

A recent Beijing seminar for the nascent capitalist classes of China was attended by a global panel of speakers with strong representations from regional and American exchanges.

Mr Armstrong, a corporate finance partner with the company's Australian division, said: 'We have a very active, well-informed market. There is a willingness for both underwriters and Australian exchanges to pursue foreign listings, which include companies in China.

'Australia, through its equity markets, would hope to have a significant exposure in this exciting new market.' While China companies are a novelty for Australian exchanges, the markets are no stranger to foreign capital.

Investors from Britain have traditionally dominated foreign investment on the Australian exchange.

According to GT Fund Management, in 1992-93 British investors accounted for 45 per cent of all foreign investment on the market.

The United States is closing the gap, having bought about A$5 billion worth of shares on its markets in the first nine months of last year - a 194 per cent increase over the same period in 1992.

Earlier this week, building company OLS Asia Holdings became the third Chinese firm to make a healthy debut on the Australian exchange.

About 1.13 million shares changed hands on Monday before closing at $1, up from its issue price of 92 cents.

Guangdong Corp started trading at a 37-cent premium when it listed late last year, while shares in Canada Land ended their first day on July 28 at a 12-cent premium.

OLS raised $13.8 million through the issue of 15 million shares, representing 25 per cent of the firm.

The company, which operates mainly in Hong Kong, said it planned to use some of the funds to expand its Chinese operations.

Mr Armstrong said: 'China has a huge capital requirement that it can only meet through agents, such as the World Bank, funding them, by private means or through the open market.' He said the major problems encountered in seeking a listing for China companies were meeting the legal rather than accounting requirements.

These include sorting out liability for value-added tax, licensing agreements, asset transfers and the status of agreements.

Mr Armstrong said his industrial concern was expected to be making its appearance on the Australian market in December for January.