China Tower gets the green light for its US$10 billion Hong Kong IPO, surpassing Xiaomi’s plan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 June, 2018, 6:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 June, 2018, 7:29pm

Call it the revenge of the old technology. China Tower, the world’s biggest operator of telecommunications towers for mobile phone networks, has received the formal approval to raise up to US$10 billion in a Hong Kong stock offer, surpassing smartphone maker Xiaomi in claiming the 2018 crown for the biggest global initial public offering.

The Beijing-based company, formed in 2014 through merging the transmission operations of China Mobile, China Unicom (Hong Kong) and China Telecom, has received the official green light from the Listing Committee of the Hong Kong stock exchange, clearing the way for a listing by the end of July, according to a source familiar with the plan.

The final amount of capital raised will be subject to market conditions, and will be known after the company’s road show to present its business plan to investors, the source said.

A US$10 billion IPO would place China Tower head and shoulders above Xiaomi as the world’s biggest IPO this year. It would also be the fourth-biggest fundraising in Hong Kong in three decades. Alibaba Group Holdings, the owner of the South China Morning Post, still holds the world record in IPO size with its US$25 billion New York float in 2014.

A successful sale in Hong Kong would put the city ahead in its race to retake the global crown in IPOs from New York, Shanghai and Shenzhen. It also comes after Hong Kong’s securities regulator and stock market operator last year overhauled the city’s listing regulations to attract pre-sales biotechnology research teams, technology start-ups and so-called new economy companies to raise funds.

Xiaomi, the world’s fourth-largest smartphone maker, was to be the poster boy for Hong Kong’s come-out party. The company, founded in Beijing by serial technology entrepreneur Lei Jun eight years ago, was aiming for a Hong Kong IPO that’s been reported at US$10 billion, before its plan was crimped by the Chinese regulator’s strong-arm tactic to split its fundraising with a Chinese depository receipt (CDR) in Shanghai.

The CDR, estimated at US$5 billion, was postponed on June 18, leaving Xiaomi with a smaller IPO in Hong Kong of US$6.1 billion.

Where Xiaomi - it’s also the world’s largest maker of wearable smart devices - represents technology and the new economy, China Tower is firmly in the old economy. It was established to help the country’s largest cellular network operators streamline their businesses and save costs on building and maintaining telecoms towers. The company operated and managed 1.87 million sites for 2.69 million tenants as at the end of 2017, making it the world’s biggest infrastructure service provider.

Before its listing, China Mobile owned 38 per cent of China Tower, Unicom owned 28.1 per cent while China Telecom had 27.8 per cent stake.

Profit jumped 25-fold last year to 1.9 billion yuan (US$287.2 million) from 2016 net income of 76 million yuan, while the company reported a 2015 loss of 3.6 billion yuan, according to its listing prospectus.

In future, the company will improve its efficiency, promote green energy application and explore overseas market expansion opportunities, according to a copy of its listing prospectus filed in May.

China International Capital Corp. and Goldman Sachs Inc. are joint sponsors for the planned China Tower share sale.