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China Tower Is Said to Draw Hillhouse, Alibaba to Hong Kong IPO

Crystal Tse, Manuel Baigorri, Vinicy Chan
The sun sets over buildings on Hong Kong island, left, and the Kowloon area, right, in Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday, May 29, 2018. The U.S. dethroned Hong Kong to retake first place among the world's most competitive economies, thanks to faster economic growth and a supportive atmosphere for scientific and technological innovation, according to annual rankings by the Switzerland-based IMD World Competitiveness Center. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

China Tower Corp., the state-owned wireless infrastructure operator, has attracted Hillhouse Capital and a unit of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. as investors in its planned Hong Kong initial public offering, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Hillhouse funds and Taobao China Holding Ltd. are among the 10 firms that agreed to buy about $1.4 billion of stock as cornerstone investors, the people said. China Tower is expected to start taking investor orders Monday, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. The planned deal could raise about $8 billion, one of the people said.

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China Tower is pursuing what could be the world’s biggest IPO in almost four years amid a slump in the Hong Kong equity market, with the benchmark Hang Seng Index trading down 15 percent from its all-time high in January. This year’s other hotly anticipated IPO -- Xiaomi Corp.’s $5.4 billion fundraising -- priced last month at the bottom of the range, valuing the phone maker at about half its original target .

Hillhouse funds and the Alibaba unit agreed to invest $400 million and about $100m, respectively, in China Tower’s IPO, the people said. Other cornerstone investors include affiliates of China National Petroleum Corp., SAIC Motor Corp. and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., according to the people.

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An $8 billion deal would be the world’s biggest first-time share sale since Alibaba’s $25 billion U.S. stock offering in 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. China Tower is expected to price its offering around Aug. 1, the people said.

A China Tower representative couldn’t immediately comment outside normal business hours. An external representative for Hillhouse declined to comment, while an external representative for Alibaba said she couldn’t immediately comment.

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CNPC and SAIC didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment outside normal business hours. ICBC didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The world’s largest telecom tower service was formed by combining tower assets of China Mobile Ltd., China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. and China Telecom Corp. in 2015 as part of a broader plan to reform the nation’s state-dominated wireless industry.

China International Capital Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are joint sponsors for the planned deal.

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