IPO surge sets up bright 2014 for Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 12:26am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 2:15am

If the fourth quarter of 2013 is anything to go by, the year ahead will be busy for initial public offerings, with a diverse set of issuers and lots of new cash coming into the market.

The fourth quarter created momentum for Hong Kong IPOs, with December generating as much volume as the first six months of 2013 combined, according to Thomson Reuters.

Deal flow looks strong for the year ahead. If only four of the mooted floats of 2014 hit Hong Kong - namely Hongkong Electric, AS Watson, Shuanghui, and Alibaba (still a possibility) - the city will double the IPO fundraising seen in 2013.

More promising for Hong Kong IPOs, a real market returned for listings in the second half. Offshore institutional capital and local retail money entered a diversity of deals.

The market was wide open in the fourth quarter … with HK retail back and active


State-owned firms (Cinda, Qinhuangdao Port) came to market alongside privately owned enterprises (Kerry Logistics and Fu Shou Yuan), and these deals were sold to an array of investors.

"The market was wide open in the fourth quarter … with Hong Kong retail back and active. This bodes well for 2014," said Rupert Mitchell, the head of the Asia equity capital markets syndicate at Citi.

It was a remarkable finish, if only because the Hong Kong market in the months up to September was so dysfunctional. The deal flow up to May largely comprised state-owned enterprises that were sold heavily to mainland corporate investors. In other words, the sale of one SOE to another, that for some reason went through the city's exchange.

"It was a combination of cornerstones being needed to get the deals done, and a lack of international institutional interest on the one hand; and the issuers or their shareholders roping-in SOEs for that purpose on the other," said Philippe Espinasse, author of IPO: A Global Guide, of the deal flow early in the year.

The sale of 61 per cent of Hydoo International's Hong Kong IPO to cornerstone investors was emblematic of that trend, even if the deal priced in October.

Damien Brosnan, the head of UBS' Asian equity capital markets syndicate, said global investors that had made big gains with Japanese and American equities this year started to redeploy cash to emerging markets, such as China offerings.

After a tough couple of years, the Hong Kong IPO market looks healthy. Supply and demand are back, and largely in balance.