AgBank prices Hong Kong IPO lower than expected
Hong Kong (AFP) July 7, 2010
Agricultural Bank of China has priced the Hong Kong portion of its massive stock sale at 3.20 Hong Kong dollars (41 cents) per share, below the top end of its expected range.
AgBank -- the last of China's big four lenders to float its shares -- had said the stock would be priced between 2.88 Hong Kong dollars and 3.48 Hong Kong dollars a share, raising 13.1 billion US dollars at the top end.
The lender was also expected to fetch as much as 10.1 billion US dollars in a dual Shanghai sale.
The Hong Kong share price throws into question whether AgBank will still overtake Industrial and Commercial Bank of China's record 21.9-billion-US-dollar offering in 2006.
AgBank said it would announce the offering's share price on Friday, but Dow Jones Newswires, citing unnamed sources, said late Tuesday the stock had been priced at 3.20 Hong Kong dollars per share.
The rural lender's Shanghai share sale has a price range of 2.52-2.68 yuan (37-39 US cents) a share.
The Shanghai pricing was expected Wednesday, with the lender's stock set to begin trading in Hong Kong on July 16 and a day earlier in Shanghai.
The bank has in recent weeks scaled back its original 30 billion US dollar target amid market volatility tied to concerns about the global economy and questions about how investors will react to a balance sheet dented by bad loans.
The portion of Hong Kong shares for institutional investors may have been fully taken up, with the offering six to 10 times oversubscribed, Dow Jones Newswires has reported, citing unnamed sources.
Similar demand was expected from institutional investors for the Shanghai sale, although there have been reports of tepid interest from retail investors.
AgBank could be hamstrung by its long-held mandate to advance loans to poor rural farmers, instead of targeting higher growth areas, said Cheng Yuk-shing, an associate economics professor at Hong Kong Baptist University.
"The market is probably worried that the performance of (AgBank) won't be as good as the other state banks," he told AFP. "Management is trying to reconcile the bank's policy mission with how to drive profitability."
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