New listings in China are breaking records even as turbulent markets cast a pall over the global initial-public-offering business.
The disconnect shows how markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen remain relatively shielded from developments elsewhere, bankers say, despite the fact that foreign buyers have increased their investments in mainland China in recent years. IPOs in China raised more than $33.8 billion so far this year, up from more than $30.4 billion a year earlier, according to Dealogic. This year’s tally is the highest figure since at least 2009, according to Dealogic. That is the year when the data provider began giving banks league-table credit for work on onshore listings, after the market was opened to non-Chinese bookrunners.The figures include both primary listings—for companies whose stock wasn’t previously trading anywhere—and secondary listings by companies that already had a presence on another exchange.
In contrast, the global dollar value of IPOs fell 71% to more than $90.2 billion over the same period. In Hong Kong, IPO volumes have tumbled 92% from a year ago to nearly $2.2 billion, the lowest point since 2009.
Investors have balked at putting money into new listings globally. Surging inflation, rising interest rates, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and uncertainty over the trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic have put pressure on world stock and bond markets. Shares of rapidly growing technology companies—a mainstay of IPO markets in recent years—have been among the hardest hit. While estimates of Chinese growth have fallen—due in part to strict Covid-19 lockdowns—and the benchmark CSI 300 index has fallen about 15% this year, issuance has proven resilient.
High trading volumes also are supportive for the market, bankers say, because this liquidity helps give investors confidence they can trade in and out of newly public stocks rapidly if needed. Another driver is that Chinese companies typically have to undergo a long approval process before listing on a domestic exchange and are therefore eager to join the public markets once they get the go-ahead.
New listings on China’s main boards are usually priced at modest levels, with an unwritten rule capping their valuation at listing.
This year’s biggest mainland listing was the $4.4 billion debut in April of energy giant Cnooc Ltd. The company, whose shares also trade in Hong Kong, was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange last year due to an investment ban introduced by former President Donald Trump.Bankers and lawyers say new listings could also pick up later in the year in Hong Kong, which is traditionally a major destination for offshore listings by mainland Chinese companies.
Regulators in Beijing and Washington have stepped up their scrutiny of Chinese companies that are listed in the U.S., or firms that plan to list there. That has increased the appeal of Hong Kong as an alternative destination. A dispute over access to audit papers could lead to Chinese companies being booted off U.S. exchanges as soon as next year.
For deals to resume broadly, however, global markets need to become less volatile. Investors also have a range of concerns about China, including economic growth, technology regulation, Covid-19 policy and U.S.-China audit negotiations. And China has yet to publish finalized rules on offshore listings, which will include Hong Kong.
The city’s exchange operator, Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. , has said it had 170 active applications as of the end of May for IPOs on its main board. International share sales from China “could be the story of the second half,” if those IPOs start to appear, said Udhay Furtado, co-head of Asia-Pacific equity capital markets at Citi.