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作者: 来源: 日期:2016-09-09 8:48:03

Zombies proliferate as cornerstones entomb the Chinese market





Asenior equities banker received a call last week from a client whose company he helped float in Hong Kong last year. How, asked the client, can we increase trading volume and interest in the company? The banker’s answer was simple although his solution was anything but: intensive pitching to potential investors all over again.



The company is in danger of becoming what Hong Kong bankers are dubbing a zombie, or “Z-shares” — that is, newish companies that trade little, relative to their size, because their so-called free float is held mostly by cornerstone investors. Locked up for six months, these big shareholders at first cannot, and later do not, trade the shares.



The result is a collection of newish but illiquid stocks which do little to pique investor interest — and do even less for Hong Kong’s efforts to rank alongside London and New York, even though the territory is on course to host the most initial public offerings for a second year running.



Hong Kong’s financial community has grumbled about cornerstones for years. Indeed, a government advisory group called for action two years ago — to no avail. But the issues surrounding their use are growing rapidly.



Cornerstones have this year taken up almost half the equity on offer — a record. Their share will jump above 50 per cent following next week’s $8bn IPO of Postal Savings Bank of China. Up to three-quarters of PSBC’s shares are expected to be taken by cornerstones, who accept the half-year lock-ups and the publication of their names, in return for the full allocation they want.

今年近半数新发行的股票都由基石投资者认购,创下纪录。这些投资者所占份额在中国邮政储蓄银行(Postal Savings Bank of China)下周进行80亿美元的IPO后,将跃升至50%以上。预计中国邮政储蓄银行所发行股份有高达四分之三都将由基石投资者认购,他们接受半年禁售期,同意公开自己的名字,回报是可以得到他们想要的全部配额。广州投资翻译公司。


Mainland Chinese companies now provide 71 per cent of cornerstone money, up from 55 per cent two years ago, according to analysis of Dealogic data. A lot of those investors are participating in so-called “friends and family” deals, in which state-owned enterprises back a fellow state-owned enterprise’s float. PSBC’s biggest cornerstone, taking about $2bn, is China State Shipbuilding.

Dealogic数据的分析显示,中国内地企业现在提供了71%的基石资金,两年前这个比例为55%。这类投资者中许多人都参与了所谓的“亲友团”交易,即一家国企上市,其他国企纷纷支持。中国邮政储蓄最大的基石投资者是中国船舶工业(China State Shipbuilding),认购了约20亿美元的股份。


Bankers warn that the heavy use of cornerstones can inflate share prices because they commit to buying at the top of the range if needed, giving other investors less sway over pricing. Chinese company cornerstones “have money but nothing else”, says one banker. “They don’t have the sophistication to research, to come up with a price — they don’t care about that.”



Hong Kong’s financial services advisory committee warned in 2014 that the practice — then running at less than 30 per cent of total equity raised — risked having a “distortive effect” on market pricing. But the Hong Kong Exchange, the city’s for-profit equity trading monopoly, last year said its Listing Committee had found “no conclusive evidence” of this. The exchange says it continues to monitor developments.

香港金融服务咨询委员会在2014年曾警告这种做法有可能对市场定价产生“扭曲作用”,当时基石投资在IPO筹资总额中占比还不足30%。但香港交易所(HKEx)——营利性股票交易垄断者——去年表示其上市委员会(Listing Committee)“没有(发现)确凿的证据”显示存在这种情况。港交所表示将继续监测事态发展。


Bankers, however, say executives rely on cornerstones to make sure their companies get the top float price with no regard for its impact on liquidity later on.



A lot of our clients here work for the government and if you stick a book of demand in front of a bureaucrat and it is in theory more than one-and-a-half times covered at the top of the range, where do you think he’s going to price that deal?” asked a Hong Kong banker.



Bankers care about trading volumes because active markets mean more commission. There is an argument, too, that lower listing prices help produce that first-day price “pop” common in New York, which draws attention to the company and gives favoured institutional clients — who buy shares at the float price — a neat windfall.



But investors also want interesting, liquid, companies on which to take a view. In two years, institutional investors’ presence as cornerstones has dropped from almost a third to 11 per cent. On average, trading in recent large Hong Kong IPOs — those that floated last year at more than $500m — reaches 4 per cent of the value of the freely floated shares per month and those with more cornerstones trade even less. In New York, daily trading hovers at the 13 per cent level.



In a rising market, cornerstone issues would fade away as big investors eventually sold at a profit. The lack of interest in China, particularly its banks, makes that unlikely in the near term, while rehabilitating zombies will take a long time. In the meantime, calls are growing for the Hong Kong Exchange to reconsider the rules for lock-ups. The likes of PSBC are too big to become zombies.




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