Tencent’s China Literature in smashing debut, boosts outlook for Hong Kong tech IPOs

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HONG KONG (Reuters) – Tencent’s e-book unit China Literature Ltd (0772.HK) saw its shares surge more than 80 percent in their debut on Wednesday, as Hong Kong investors embrace a rush of tech listings, marking the biggest first-day gain for a large IPO globally this year.

China Literature Co-Chief Executive Officers Liang Xiaodong (L) and Wu Wenhui pose during the debut of the company at the Hong Kong Exchanges in Hong Kong, China November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

The company’s stunning debut has shown that Hong Kong has raised its game as it strives to compete with the New York and Nasdaq exchanges – the more traditional home for Chinese tech IPOs seeking to attract international investors.

China Literature’s shares doubled to HK$110 in early trade, versus its offering price of HK$55. The shares closed at HK$102.4, gaining 86.2 percent on the day and giving the company a market value of almost $12 billion.

Before China Literature, the biggest first-day pops of the year belonged to Snap Inc (SNAP.N), the U.S. social media platform, and Shanghai-listed Caitong Securities (601108.SS). Each gained 44 percent on debut, according to Thomson Reuters data based on any company raising more than $500 million.

“As the first Tencent-controlled subsidiary tapping capital markets, China Literature has to perform well in the secondary market to set a good example for other Tencent units,” said an institutional investor who took part in the IPO, declining to identified as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

But while many investors cheered the stock, others noted that Wednesday’s valuations for the Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) unit were stretched.

Company executives project a net profit of 400 million yuan ($60 million) for 2017 and 1 billion yuan for 2018, according to investors who attended IPO roadshow meetings.

That implies China Literature is trading at 197 times its forecast 2017 earnings and 79 times its 2018 projections, versus Tencent that is trading at 51 times its 2017 forecast profits.

Co-CEO Liang Xiaodong told reporters after the opening bell ceremony that the stock’s surge was a pleasant surprise.

“Going forward, we will conduct M&As and forge strategic alliances … in a bid to stay ahead in our industry,” he said.

A company logo of China Literature is displayed during a news conference on its IPO in Hong Kong, China October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

China’s biggest e-book platform offers 9.6 million literary works from 6.4 million authors. Tencent began e-book publishing in 2004 and after an internal reorganization, formed the basis of China Literature in 2013.

Demand for the IPO, which raised $1.1 billion, was such that retail investors bid for 625 times the shares on offer – tying up HK$521 billion ($67 billion), equivalent to a fifth of Hong Kong’s cash in circulation, as they waited to see whether their offers would be accepted.

China Literature’s IPO success comes as the number of tech offerings in Hong Kong is picking up.

Online insurance group ZhongAn raised $1.5 billion in September in Asia’s biggest-ever financial technology IPO. Its shares jumped 18 percent in their debut.

“Our team expects to see an increasing number of technology-related issuers in the coming months,” Amy Lo, a partner at Clifford Chance, adviser to China Literature’s underwriters, said in a statement.

Razer Inc (1337.HK), a gaming hardware maker backed by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing as well as Intel Corp (INTC.O), will make its Hong Kong debut next Monday. It has priced its HK$4.12 billion ($528 million) IPO near the top end of its price range, IFR reported on Tuesday.

“(ZhongAn) gave people size and returns, so retail and high net worth individuals got excited. And that is being reflected in China Literature and Razer,” said one banker involved in the China Literature deal, also declining to be identified.

But even so, for many Chinese tech firms, the U.S. market remains more attractive.

Sogou Inc (SOGO.N), China’s second-largest search engine and 45 percent owned by Tencent, is due to begin trading on Thursday after pricing an IPO of up to $585 million on Wednesday.

Tencent owns 62 percent of China Literature, while Carlyle Group LP (CG.O) holds 12.2 percent. A further 6 percent is owned by Trustbridge Partners, which was founded by Shujun Li, the former CFO of Shanda Interactive.

($1 = 6.639 yuan)

Reporting by Jennifer Hughes and Julie Zhu, additional reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee and Donny Kwok in Hong Kong, and Gaurav Dogra in Bengaluru; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Himani Sarkar

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