* Uniqlo owner aims to bolster China profile with HK listing
* Hong Kong receipts gain 5.6 pct vs 3 pct rise for Tokyo shares
* But low trading volumes for HDRs in general a concern
* Japan’s SBI Holdings to delist in Hong Kong on low volumes (Updates with share price closing)
By Elzio Barreto
HONG KONG, March 5 (Reuters) - Uniqlo brand owner Fast Retailing Co Ltd climbed 5.6 percent on its first day of trade in Hong Kong, where it listed to boost its profile in China and bolster its ambitious aim of becoming the world’s top clothing retailer by 2020.
The company raised no new funds with the listing, opting to issue Hong Kong depositary receipts (HDRs) that are reserved for foreign firms and that tend to be sparsely traded, although they can enhance a global company’s presence among local investors.
Fast Retailing, which retains its primary listing in Tokyo, plans to triple the number of its stores in Greater China to 1,000 by the end of the decade - one of the most aggressive plans for the area by a global clothing firm.
China is Uniqlo’s second biggest market after Japan, and by number of stores it is the largest global apparel brand in China, ahead of Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), Inditex S.A.’s Zara, and Gap Inc.
Fast Retailing’s HDRs, basking in the attention of their market debut, outperformed the 3 percent gain of their counterparts traded in Tokyo. At one point in early thin trade the HDRs shot up by nearly a third before quickly paring gains. They closed at HK$28.90.
One hundred HDRs are equivalent to one Tokyo-traded share.
The value of receipts traded in Hong Kong on Wednesday was only about 5 percent of trading in Tokyo, where Fast Retailing is the most heavily weighted share in the benchmark Nikkei average.
To mark the debut, Chief Executive Tadashi Yanai rang the opening bell at the Hong Kong bourse. He did not speak to media eager to quiz him on the company’s interest in possibly acquiring J.Crew Group Inc.
Sources have said that Yanai has looked at a possible deal but that the billionaire is likely to balk at the $5 billion price tag J.Crew is said to be seeking.
Traders said liquidity in Hong Kong would be an issue and there was very little reason for institutional investors to buy into the stock on the island city’s bourse when they could get better liquidity in Tokyo.
“HDRs in Hong Kong are targeted mainly at the retail market, so liquidity tends to be low,” said Jackson Wong, Tanrich Securities’ vice-president for equity sales.
While other companies such as Coach Inc and casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd have also listed in Hong Kong to boost their profile, without raising capital, at least one - financial firm SBI Holdings - has said low liquidity meant it was no longer worth the effort.
As SBI’s primary bourse is Tokyo, it will delist in June, it said on Tuesday, saving annual costs of more than 100 million yen ($980,000).
HDRs now represent just 0.05 percent of its outstanding shares, down from the 9.1 percent when it originally listed in 2011, while trading “has been minimal”. But it said it may consider Hong Kong as a primary bourse for some of its units.
The sole sponsor for Fast Retailing’s Hong Kong listing was Morgan Stanley, which earned about 150 million yen in fees, according to Fast Retailing’s listing prospectus.
Fast Retailing has also said it may list on other bourses. ($1 = 102.1350 Japanese Yen) (Addional reporting by Clement Tan and Denny Thomas in Hong Kong, and Ritsuko Shimizu and Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo; Editing by Edwina Gibbs, Edmund Klamann and Jeremy Laurence)