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First offshore yuan IPO makes limp Hong Kong debut

29 april 2011, 12:23
Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing's yuan-denominated IPO, the world's first outside mainland China, made a limp trading debut Friday but officials said the market remained full of promise, AFP reports.

Shares in Hui Xian Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) controlled by Asia's richest man, tumbled to 4.88 yuan (75 US cents), well below their 5.24 yuan initial public offering price, on opening and ended the morning at 4.84 yuan.

The tepid debut comes despite high hopes that it will help bolster Beijing's bid to turn the yuan into a global currency that could rival the US dollar's dominance, and gauge the future for yuan IPOs in Hong Kong.

The poor performance came with markets across Asia depressed by lacklustre US economic data, and Hui Xian chairman Kam Hing-lam insisted that he was "very happy" with the IPO's performance.

"This is the first renminbi-denominated REIT in Hong Kong. This is the first time the renminbi has traded on a stock exchange outside of China," Kam told a news conference, using the Chinese currency's official name.

Eddy Fong, chairman of Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission, described the listing as "historic".

"This strengthens Hong Kong's position as an offshore yuan trading hub," Fong told reporters at a listing ceremony ahead of the start of trading.

The IPO has failed to spark huge interest among investors, after it was priced at the lowest end of a range of 5.24-5.58 yuan per share, raising 10.48 billion yuan in total.

China has been using Hong Kong -- a semi-autonomous Chinese territory -- as a test bed to internationalise the yuan, and analysts agreed that it was too early to write off the new IPO market.

Dariusz Kowalczyk, senior economist and strategist at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong, said the appetite for yuan listings should be judged over a longer period.

"The markets' sentiment in Asia today is not very strong, there are some consolidations so the Hong Kong market is just one of them," he told AFP.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was 0.52 percent lower at 23,682.80 by midday.

Nicole Wong, regional head of property research at brokerage CLSA said Hui Xian's debut was weaker than expected but investors could benefit from the the security of a steady income-generating offering.

"It is just day one, it doesn't mean it will be a disappointing future for the renminbi products," she said, adding that at 4.88 yuan, Hui Xian has a estimated yield of 4.72 percent.

The forecast yield is lower than the Hong Kong REIT sector's average forecast yield of about 5.0 percent, but Hui Xian's dividends -- to be paid in Hong Kong dollars -- will be higher given the likelihood of continued yuan strength.

The REIT is tied to the Oriental Plaza, a sprawling 100,000 square metre (1.1 million square foot) complex in Beijing's prime Wangfujing Street, which includes a mall that commands some of the city's highest rental rates.

The IPO, which opened for sale on April 11, saw the trust sell two billion units, or 40 percent of the property firm.

The institutional tranche of the offering was fully subscribed, while a 20 percent share of the offering set aside for retail investors was oversubscribed two and a half times.

Hui Xian's debut comes after Li raised $5.5 billion from a Singapore listing of Hutchison Port Holdings Trust, which controls deepwater ports in China and Hong Kong.

China is also reportedly in talks with Hong Kong rival Singapore to set the city-state up as another trading hub for the Chinese currency. Singapore is Asia's second-largest foreign exchange trading centre after Japan.

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