WRAPUP 1-China state news portal soars on share debut

Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:30am EDT

* Stock broker Haitong ends flat after $1.7 bln offer

* No sign of broader pick-up in Asia-Pacific markets

By Melanie Lee and Elzio Barreto

SHANGHAI/HONG KONG April 27 (Reuters) - Shares in China's People.cn Co Ltd closed 74 percent higher on their first day of trading on Friday, putting a market value higher than the New York Times on the state-backed news portal after a $219 million public offer.

But its performance contrasted with the flat Hong Kong debut of the very different Haitong Securities Co, China's No. 2 brokerage by assets, which raised $1.7 billion in Asia-Pacific's biggest share offering this year.

And analysts said that despite the success of People.cn's sale there was little sign of a broader pick up in Asia-Pacific equity capital markets after what Thomson Reuters data shows to be their slowest start in four years.

In Shanghai, demand for People.cn shares was so high that the stock was suspended for most of the afternoon after triggering multiple circuit breakers on the stock exchange.

"Investors are scrambling for People.cn due to its scarcity," said Liu Guanwu, a media IPO analyst with Beijing-based consultancy Analysys International.

At its Friday close of 34.72 yuan, 73.6 percent higher than the initial public offering price of 20 yuan, People.cn was worth 9.6 billion yuan ($1.5 billion), more than New York Times, which has a market capitalization of $951 million.

"Institutional investors I have spoken to seem rather interested in this stock primarily because it's a government entity," said Chen Yi, an equity analyst with Xiangcai Securities in Shanghai.

"From the look of things, retail investors seem to have also followed suit."

The Shanghai Composite Index closed 0.35 percent lower at 2,396.3 points.

HAITONG FLAT

Haitong's debut better reflected the picture in the Asia-Pacific region for raising funds through share issues.

Deal values have dropped 20 percent so far in 2012 from the same time last year. Even a 13 percent rise in the benchmark Hong Kong share index .HSI has failed to spark investor interest in new listings.

"People are worried about Europe's debt crisis," said Jasper Chan, corporate finance officer at brokerage Phillip Securities in Hong Kong. "Perhaps there will be no rebound in offerings this year."

Haitong's offer had been seen as crucial to kick start Hong Kong's sluggish IPO market. It is already listed in Shanghai .

Haitong ended flat at HK$10.60 compared with a 0.33 percent fall in the benchmark Hong Kong share index. It will use the proceeds to fund overseas takeovers and expand margin finance, hedge fund and private equity businesses.

State-owned media organisations such as People.cn have been officially encouraged to list shares in the domestic market to get capital for improving services and to extend Beijing's control over the Internet sector.

Xinhuanet, the Internet portal of state news agency Xinhua, is also set to raise 1 billion yuan in Shanghai, but like People.cn, it will have to compete hard for advertising dollars with private media Internet firms Sina Corp and Sohu.com Inc, more focused on entertainment than news.

In 2010, China's Ministry of Finance was People.cn's biggest customer, accounting for 22.2 percent of its revenue.

People.cn raised 1.38 billion yuan in its initial public offering, more than twice its target, and is one of the first state-controlled media groups to list. It sold 69.1 million shares near the bottom of its indicative range of 20.0-22.50 yuan.

($1 = 6.3060 Chinese yuan) (Additional reporting by Clement Tan in HONG KONG; Editing by Kazunori Takada, Denny Thomas and Matthew Tostevin)

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