(Updates with closing price, context)
By Nguyen Mi
HANOI, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Shares of Vietnam’s biggest shopping mall operator, Vincom Retail, closed little changed in a lacklustre debut on Monday after the country’s biggest ever initial public offering.
Although there was demand for 13.3 million shares, only 800 changed hands in the session. Analysts said shares would be actively traded only later this week after the completion of the IPO settlement.
Despite the thin trade, analysts said the success of the IPO, which raised $709 million and valued Vincom Retail at about $3.4 billion, provided an encouraging sign for other private Vietnamese firms seeking to list and for the state’s privatisation plans.
“Foreign investors are clearly showing strong interest in the market in Vietnam,” said Nguyen Thanh Lam at Maybank Kim Eng Securities.
Vietnam’s economic growth rate of nearly 7 percent, and a young and increasingly affluent population in the country of 90 million have made it a magnet for foreign money, but with limited opportunities for portfolio investors.
Vincom Retail stock closed at 40,550 dong ($1.79 each) on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange, unchanged from its opening price and slightly below its IPO price of 40,600 dong a share, which was at the top end of the range for the sale of the shares.
“Its pricing on the first trading day can be considered a success,” said an analyst in Ho Chi Minh City.
The broader Vietnam index gained 0.6 percent to mark its highest close in more than nine years.
The exchange allows shares to move a maximum of 20 percent from their listing price on the first day of trading. Prices can fluctuate up to 7 percent thereafter.
Vincom shares will only reach IPO buyers two days after their transaction date.
Warburg Pincus-owned fund WP Investments III, Credit Suisse and other individual shareholders sold shares in the IPO. Vingroup, a major shareholder in Vincom Retail, did not sell any shares.
In Vietnam, a stock exchange listing and initial public offering are separate steps and a listing may come months after an IPO.
Vietnam’s government is also selling more of its stakes in companies to raise money and to drive reform of state-owned enterprises. The list of pending share sales includes a further stake in dairy firm Vinamilk, Vietnam’s biggest listed company by market value, and top brewers Habeco and Sabeco .
$1 = 22,700 dong Reporting by Mi Nguyen; Editing by Sam Holmes and Amrutha Gayathri