Biggest ever IPO starts in Hong Kong

By Lillian Liu (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-10-16 06:48

HONG KONG: Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the country's largest lender by assets, launches its H-share public offering in Hong Kong this morning, simultaneously issuing shares in Shanghai, making it the first-ever company to list on both A-and H-share markets at the same time.

The initial public offering (IPO) by the biggest of the mainland's Big Four banks, which analysts predicated might attract as much as HK$322 billion in its Hong Kong retail tranche, is likely to be the largest IPO in fund market history, surpassing the Japan's NTT Mobile Communications record-making US$18.4 billion offer.

ICBC's 4-day Hong Kong offer, which will sell 35.39 billion shares, has attracted a swarm of retail investors, over subscribing the share 59 times, according to the median estimate of three Hong Kong-based analysts polled by China Daily.

The bank's H-share public offering will start at 9 am today and close on Thursday. The final offer price will be announced on October 23 and the dual trading debut is scheduled for October 27.

ICBC is likely to be the second mainland bank to become a major component of Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index. It is the fifth mainland bank to list in Hong Kong, following Bank of Communication, China Construction Bank, Bank of China and China Merchants Bank, the IPO's of all of which generated massive demand from investors.

Bank of China locked up about HK$300 billion in its Hong Kong offering in June, and bank watchers expect ICBC to raise at least 20 per cent more than that, given the scale of its share sale and the more attractive indicative price.

Buying stocks in H-share banks and mainland companies in general has become the preferred investment for Hong Kong investors and a hot topic in the community, as shareholders keep a close eye on the mainland economy's robust growth.

"Since 1999 we have implemented a series of reforms that have significantly transformed our business, operations and corporate culture," said ICBC President Yang Kaisheng in a statement before the offering. "We have emphasized in particular the development of a comprehensive risk management system and the continual improvement of asset quality."