July 9, 2019 / 12:25 AM / 3 months ago

Nine companies set prices for listings on China's Nasdaq-style tech board

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Nine Chinese companies, among the first to float on China’s red-hot Nasdaq-style tech board, announced prices of their new share offers on Tuesday, taking advantage of investor fervor to market themselves at valuations some view as lofty.

FILE PHOTO: (L-R) Chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) Yi Huiman, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Li Qiang and Shanghai’s Mayor Ying Yong attend the launch ceremony of Shanghai's Nasdaq-style tech board, STAR Market, in Shanghai, China June 13, 2019. Zhang Hengwei/CNS via REUTERS/File Photo

The busy week of initial public offerings (IPOs) comes after an official announcement that the first batch of 25 companies will start trading on Shanghai’s tech-heavy STAR Market on July 22. This week alone, 21 of them are taking subscriptions from investors.

The new tech board has done away with government control of IPO quantity and pricing, allowing companies and underwriters to set prices based on market demand.

As a result, valuations of the IPOs, measured by earning multiples, vary widely, ending the unofficial but always observed pricing cap of 23 times a company’s trailing profits.

Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment Inc (AMEC), a maker of semiconductor equipment, on Tuesday priced its new offering at 29.01 yuan ($4.22) per share, or 170.8 times its 2018 earnings, excluding extraordinary items.

In contrast, China Railway Signal & Communication Corp priced its offering at 5.85 yuan ($0.85) per share, or 18.18 times its 2018 earnings, the lowest multiples of the nine firms. Still, the IPO price is higher than Monday’s closing price of its Hong Kong-traded shares, at HK$6.05 ($0.7757).

Challenged by an investor if the IPO price is rational, AMEC’s underwriter argued during an online roadshow on Tuesday, that the valuation is justified by the company’s “huge growth potential.”

In addition, the price/sales ratio, rather than the price/earnings ratio, is a better valuation yardstick for semiconductor companies, Wu Zhijun, investment banker of Haitong Securities, told the investor.

Ningbo Ronbay New Energy Technology Co (688005.SS) also defended its pricing strategy in a roadshow on Tuesday, saying that its above-average valuation - 58.21 times 2018 earnings - is justified by an average annual profit growth of 321% in 2016-2018.

The IPO price was set high because “the company’s competitive advantage and growth prospects got wide recognition from institutional investors,” board secretary Chen Zhaohua said.

The nine companies will take subscriptions from investors on Wednesday.

(The story is refiled to correct year to 2018 in third to last paragraph.)

Reporting by Samuel Shen and David Stanway; Editing by Shri Navaratnam & Kim Coghill

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