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Ant Group: Investors pour US$3 trillion into world's largest IPO with frenzied bids in Hong Kong and Shanghai retail offerings

Enoch Yiu enoch.yiu@scmp.com
·4 min read

The largest initial public offering (IPO) in global financial history broke records in Shanghai and Hong Kong, soaking up more than US$3 trillion from retail investors, setting off frenzied bids for the shares of Ant Group.

A record 19.05 trillion yuan (US$2.85 trillion) of bids were received from retail investors for Ant's shares on Shanghai's Star Market, exceeding the supply of shares by 870 times. In Hong Kong, 1.55 million retail investors, or about one-fifth of the city's population, poured in HK$1.3 trillion (US$167.7 billion) for the shares when the book closed at noon on Friday, overbidding by 389 times, according to people familiar with the matter.

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The IPO has already mopped up more money than the stock sale by Chinese bottled water producer Nongfu Spring's HK$677.7 billion. The number of mom-and-pop investors in Ant Group will also exceed the record when 970,000 people submitted bids for the shares of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) in 2006, according to stock exchange data.

"The offering is so hot that more than 1 million retail investors have sent their subscriptions," said Louis Tse Ming-kwong, managing director of Hong Kong-based brokerage Wealthy Securities. "It is a historic moment for Hong Kong's securities market."

Retail investors submitted a record 19.05 trillion yuan (US$2.85 trillion) in subscription money for Ant's share offering on the Star Market, a board of technology stocks in Shanghai. It amounted to 872 times oversubscription, the firm said in a Shanghai exchange filing late on Thursday.

Ant Group offered 1.67 billion shares each in Hong Kong and Shanghai to raise about US$34.5 billion, making it the world's biggest IPO. Including a 15 per cent overallotment in each leg, the total size of the IPO will increase to US$39.67 billion.

Strong demand from individual investors in Hong Kong triggered a mechanism where the retail allocation is raised to a maximum of 10 per cent, from the initial 2.5 per cent. The institutional tranche was also multiple times oversubscribed and allocations were skewed towards existing shareholders, long-only institutional investors and sovereign wealth funds. The overall Hong Kong share sale swelled to US$19.8 billion post greenshoe.

Investors are buying the shares as the valuation is deemed cheaper than overseas payment companies, said Hong Kong Securities Association chairman Gordon Tsui. Ant is the operator of Alipay and an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding which owns this newspaper.

"Investors believe in the future economic and technological growth of mainland China," Tse of Wealthy Securities said. "There is an increasing number of people using digital payment. Ant may have more upside room to go if it expands Alipay to overseas markets."

Ant Group began taking orders from retail investors in Hong Kong from Tuesday. HSBC, Bank of China (Hong Kong), other retail banks and the city's 600-odd brokerages have made available as much as HK$500 billion of margin financing loans to help investors fund their subscription, more than double the capacity for Nongfu Spring's IPO.

"We have seen record levels of IPO applications and IPO loan uptake for Ant Group," HSBC said in a statement. The lender set aside HK$150 billion of loans for its customers to subscribe to the shares at an interest rate of 0.48 per cent to 0.88 per cent.

How retail investors can increase their chances of getting a piece of Ant Group's blockbuster IPO in Hong Kong

The frozen IPO liquidity, however, has not driven up local interest rates substantially, with the one-month interbank offered rate or Hibor rising to 0.48 per cent on Thursday from 0.13 per cent a week earlier. The current level is still lower than 2 per cent in March.

Part of the reason is the presence of hot money in the system. More than HK$383.51 billion has entered the local financial system since April, according to HKMA statistics, forcing it to intervene more than 85 times to keep the Hong Kong dollar from breaking the stronger end of its trading band.

The inflows pushed the aggregate balance, or the amount of cash sloshing in the banking system, to a record HK$457.46 billion on Friday, or more than eight times the level before the HKMA's currency-market intervention.

Additional reporting by Alison Tudor-Ackroyd

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.