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Baidu raises $1 bln in ESG bond issue despite China tech sector woes

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By Scott Murdoch

HONG KONG, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Chinese internet giant Baidu Inc has raised $1 billion in a two-tranche, U.S. dollar sustainability bond, its first environment, social and governance (ESG) transaction.

A 5.5-year tranche bond raised $300 million and the 10-year tranche secured $700 million, a company statement said.

The shorter dated bond was priced at US Treasuries plus 83 basis points, while the longer dated issuance was at US Treasuries plus 113 basis points.

The final price was significantly cheaper for Baidu than when first flagged to investors on Wednesday.

Initial price guidance given to investors was U.S. Treasuries plus 115 basis points for the 5.5 year bond, while the 10-year was U.S. Treasuries plus 150 basis points, according to a term sheet reviewed by Reuters.

Baidu said it intended to use the proceeds to pay down debt and fund ESG-related projects within the firm.

Chinese companies have raised $121.2 billion in U.S. dollar debt funding so far in 2021, according to Dealogic data, slightly below the $126.6 billion raised during the same period last year.

In its prospectus for the deal lodged with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Baidu acknowledged the impact of China's regulatory crackdown on the tech sector is not yet fully known.

In July, China said companies with over one million customers would have to be reviewed by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) before carrying out listings overseas https://www.reuters.com/world/china/china-widens-clampdown-overseas-listings-with-pre-ipo-review-firms-with-large-2021-07-10.

"The draft measures remain unclear on whether the relevant requirements will be applicable to companies that have been listed in the United States and intend to conduct further equity or debt offerings, such as us. We cannot predict the impact of the draft measures," Baidu said in the prospectus.

On Tuesday, Chinese regulators published new rules https://www.reuters.com/business/media-telecom/china-issues-draft-rules-banning-unfair-competition-internet-sector-2021-08-17 aimed at the China tech sector to tackle anti-competitive behaviour and companies' handling of data. (Reporting by Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)